Access to Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) information and services can be extremely challenging in low-and-middle-income countries. Young people, women, and the LGBTI community in particular encounter numerous and persistent barriers preventing their access to SRHR services in far too many countries. Their governments frequently lack awareness or willingness to prioritise SRHR, conservative groups join forces to oppose these services, and the general public often holds deeply rooted biases regarding sexuality, gender and sexual identity/orientation.
These obstacles limit the ability of young people to make informed decisions about sex, sexuality and relationships. Those who do seek access to correct information, contraception or safe abortion often become targets of harassment, discrimination or even violence. In this context, civil society organisations (CSOs) also have a limited arena to advocate for sexual and reproductive rights.
At Hivos, we believe that young people should have the right to decide on issues that affect their sexual lives and health.
A strategic partnership in 10 countries
This is why, in 2016, the Right Here Right Now programme was launched as part of a strategic partnership between Rutgers, ARROW, CHOICE for Youth and Sexuality, Dance4Life, IPPF AR, LACWHN, the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Hivos. This programme runs in 10 countries and one region:
- Africa: Kenya, Uganda, Zimbabwe, Senegal
- Asia: Indonesia, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh
- Latin America: Bolivia, Honduras and the Caribbean region
Right Here Right Now focuses on the LGBTI community, girls and young women because they are particularly subject to harassment, discrimination, social exclusion and violence. The programme is tailored to local challenges, but the objective is one: to give access to comprehensive youth-friendly SRHR services and foster cooperation between civil society organisations advocating for SRHR.
Right Here Right Now connects groups and their agendas to better advocate for inclusive and progressive SRHR services. The programme provides a regional and international platform that fosters mutual understanding and connects individuals with different stories but similar goals. Locally, civil society organisations can use the platform to join forces and undertake concerted action towards government. Working together, they carry more weight and are more efficient in their advocacy for progressive SRHR legislation, norms and standards. The platform also makes its members more resilient in the sometimes rough and tumble process of making government accountable for laws, policy-making, and implementation. By working side by side, all participants become stronger in seeking public support and government action.
Right Here Right Now also advocates directly for progressive SRHR policy and improved access to services. Specifically, it aims for government to implement policy and increase expenditure especially for youth-friendly SRHR services, including comprehensive sexuality education and safe abortion, among others.
In order to achieve these goals, Right Here Right Now targets key actors simultaneously: change agents, civil society, government and international and/or regional bodies. Public support is essential to the long-term impact of SRHR advocacy, which is why change agents such as opinion leaders, artists or even religious leaders can play a significant role in changing the public discourse about SRHR.
Moreover, it is crucial involve young people, women, and the LGBTI community to voice their opinion, take action and hold the government accountable. This is why youth-led and youth-serving organisations are at the heart of Right Here Right Now advocacy for policy development, implementation and evaluation.
The programme also works to increase the knowledge, skills and political will of decision makers to focus on SRHR legislation and targets international and regional bodies to promote norms and standards for SRHR set by Right Here Right Now.
In 2017, the programme left its inception phase and formed country-tailored and inclusive platforms for Sexual Reproductive and Health Rights advocacy. Youth groups part of Right Here Right Now were invited to speak at the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW61) in March 2017.