The Academic Network on Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights Policy (ANSER) aims to become a global resource for SRHR policy research, education and service delivery by establishing an international platform for research on SRHR policy related topics; by developing a portfolio of education and training programmes on SRHR policy; and by fostering interaction between SRHR researchers and policy makers.
During the United Nations Sustainable Development Summit September 2015, 193 governments formally approved 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) as a follow-up to the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) that expired last year. During the meeting governments were tasked to come up new policies for the upcoming years in order to achieve the targets for the set goals. Sexual and reproductive health and right (SRHR) lies at the immediate intersect of SDG3 (ensuring health lives), SDG5 (achieve gender equality) and SDG10 (reducing inequalities), and has a direct link to the achievements of many other goals (such as ending hunger and addressing ecological challenges) The development of these new policies necessitates an evidence base to ensure their adequacy and effectiveness. The SRHR is seen fit to have the central position in these goals as they can make important decisions to be followed by governments. Also, the success of their implementation is closely linked to reliable follow-up and monitoring by professionals with the required training and expertise. As a result it will ensure that there is good communication and feedback among the network team formed hence exchange of knowledge and experiences which will contribute to the achievement of these goals.
This set the stage for the setting up of an International Thematic Academic Network on Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights Policy (ANSER). The strategic plan of the ANSER is anchored on high commitment to linking academia and policy through research, training and service delivery paying particular attention to translating results into practice and policy. These components of the ANSER strategic plan were emphasized during its official launch on Wednesday 30thNovember 2016, at the New Zibra Hotel, Ghent, Belgium at 5 PM. Presenct during the launch were distinguished guests and speakers including: Secretary of State for Science Policy: Dr Elke Sleurs; Dr Moazzam Ali of the Human Reproduction Programme (WHO); Director UNFPA Brussels: Mrs Sietske Steneker and Secretary of the European Parliamentary Forum on Population and Development, Mr Neil Datta. ACCAF was well represented by Prof. Patrick Muia Ndavi an Associate Professor of obstetrics and gynaecology and epidemiologist, at The University of Nairobi, and consultant Obstetrician and Gynaecologist.
In her presentation, Dr. E. Sleurs stated that SRHR policy should be anchored by scientific research and not based on political intuition and considerations while emphasizing that politics and science must not be isolated or practiced in isolation, from each other. On his part, Dr. M. Ali summarized the: WHO/HRPs core functions of capacity building, global leadership and research for attainment of the highest standard of SRH; WHO/HRPs results framework that includes impact, outcome and outputs which require activities and inputs and finally the nine key areas for research.
The ANSER coordinator, Dr. Olivier Degome, provided the intertwining of policy research, training and service delivery as the aim of the network. This would be achieved through the operations and or activities of five thematic working groups viz: abortion, contraception and family planning, SRHR monitoring and evaluation, adolescent SRHR, sexual health (including sexual-well being, sexual identity, gender identity), interpersonal violence, gender and rights. To be included in the conceptual framework are online modules, policy makers and internship programs, and the community.
A debate followed involving Dr. Mozzammi Ali, Mrs. Steneker, Mr. N. Datta and Ms. De Rycke (Medical Student University of Gent) and moderated by Mr. S. Spanoghe. The issues that informed the animated debate and considered as the biggest challenges were reliable information, good translation into policy, limited funding and resources, whether innovation was having impact, gender equality between countries, that policy makers are looking for information, digestible results, what the expectations are, evidence based policies, benefits for working together, and evidence to policy. With unfinished work on all these issues the role of ANSER is defined.