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New program in Myanmar translates policy into practice for sexual and reproductive health and rights

April 24, 2019 by PATH

The new sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) STRONG+ project engages communities to discuss their rights and responsibilities and inform future policy change

Media contact: Kate Davidson | media@path.org

PATH joined its partners Local Resource Centre and Marie Stopes International (MSI) in Myanmar this week to organize the first policy advocacy workshop and spokesperson training of their new two-year project, “SRHR STRONG+” (Strengthening the Realization of National Guidelines, Policies, and Plans). The project is funded by the Access to Health Fund through its donors, the United States, United Kingdom, Sweden, and Switzerland.

The new project marks an important milestone in Myanmar’s health policy landscape, as it provides an opportunity to improve access to SRHR information and services. Significant social, political, and technological transition has opened new doors to promote women’s rights, empowerment, and well-being in public discourse and policymaking. However, knowledge of and access to SRHR services is currently low, leading to one of the highest rates of maternal mortality in the region, largely unmet contraceptive needs, rampant gender-based violence, and illegal and unsafe abortions, among other issues. For every 100,000 births, 227 women die in childbirth; 40 out of 1,000 infants die before reaching one year of age; and just over half of all married women use modern methods of contraception.

The new SRHR STRONG+ project continues the efforts that PATH has made in the field of SRHR in Myanmar since 2016, particularly in the development of the new National Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights Policy. The new policy, expected to launch in May 2019, is at a stage where it needs to be delivered and implemented. The project will translate the important policy document into practice and steer the direction of new plans and guidelines on sexual and reproductive health in the country. (Read more about PATH’s work in developing the policy here.)

PATH and its partners will ensure that the important policy is carried out in the best way possible. At the highest level, the project team will offer technical assistance to relevant decision-makers to strengthen their technical expertise and capacity, helping to move the policy from the ministry to the level of individual citizens. MSI will organize events for policymakers at regional and state levels and share information about the policy to catalyze decision-makers to change their perspectives on SRHR.

The project will also work closely with health care providers, such as the network of health clinics run by MSI. It will make sure that health care providers understand the services and rights they can provide for their patients—for example, offering contraceptives, a vaccine to prevent the human papilloma virus (HPV), post-abortion care, and services for survivors of gender-based violence. The project will support the role of health providers in teaching people in their community about the importance of sexual and reproductive health. Apart from health providers, the project will also train media personnel on how to report on and talk about SRHR in an open and respectful way.

Finally, the project will ensure that the policy is brought to the communities and people everywhere in Myanmar. With the help of the Local Resource Centre, Gender Equality Network, and other civil society organizations, the project will organize community events across Myanmar that bring together community groups and health care providers. The events will be organized in different local languages and include representation of different groups, such as adolescents; the elderly; lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex groups; people with disabilities; migrants; people living with HIV; and people affected by emergencies. The community events will shed light on SRHR information and services in the new policy but also act as a feedback mechanism. The events will document problematic areas and gaps, which will then be discussed at annual policy forum events and through a newly established SRHR Community of Practice to make policy revisions and changes.

To ensure that Myanmar’s future policy environment is supportive of this work, the SRHR STRONG+ project will also support a policy group working on the overall strategy on reproductive, maternal, newborn, child, and adolescent health. In this role, PATH and its partners will influence the development of new strategies and policies for respective SRHR platforms. The project team will advocate particularly for improved cervical cancer screening and treatment, an issue that is still largely untouched and has only 4 percent coverage in the country. The team will also develop plans to improve the delivery of newborns in institutions such as hospitals, a practice that is not yet common. In 2016, only 37 percent of births were delivered in a facility. This practice has led to many health complications for mothers and babies. Therefore, this comprehensive plan will serve as a guide for all stakeholders working to institutionalize delivery.

The first advocacy and spokesperson training workshop will kick off this work by empowering partners, community groups and government representatives with the appropriate skills, messages and knowledge to mobilize communities and conduct effective advocacy around important SRHR issues.

With its new project, PATH and its partners will work to ensure that important services and rights around sexual and reproductive health reach all people in Myanmar.

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PATH

PATH is a global organization that works to accelerate health equity by bringing together public institutions, businesses, social enterprises, and investors to solve the world’s most pressing health challenges. With expertise in science, health, economics, technology, advocacy, and dozens of other specialties, PATH develops and scales solutions—including vaccines, drugs, devices, diagnostics, and innovative approaches to strengthening health systems worldwide. Learn more at www.path.org.