Working Group 2: COVID-19 and conducting advocacy for SRHR

COVID-19 is making it much harder to defend and advance SRHR. However, it has also created unexpected opportunities. This workshop looked at how the usual channels for conducting SRHR advocacy have broken-down or changed during the pandemic, and to what extent this has led to break ups and breakthroughs.

  • The morning workshop was hosted by Sivananthi Thanenthiran, Executive Director of ARROW.
  • Eef Wuys, Director International and European Affairs, IPPF, hosted the afternoon workshop.

Main Challenges:

  • Breakdown of usual advocacy channels: it is now more difficult to engage with key actors and government representatives.
  • Existing barriers exacerbated: especially true for reaching rural remote populations.
  • Online fatigue: the amount of time people have spent online due to COVID-19 has resulted in online fatigue, reducing the level of digital engagement and potentially diminishing the quality and impact of SRHR advocacy.

Opportunities and solutions:

  • Building platforms: online opportunities are needed for people to share their experiences which in turn can be used as anonymous data examples while conducting advocacy.
  • Positive media coverage: it is crucial to “own” the online space, through building relationships with journalists, bloggers and influencers.
  • Focus on creating evidence: more must be invested in research so that quality data on SRHR can be used to promote strong, evidence-based advocacy.
  • Digital security: a safe space for talking about contentious SRHR issues is vital. Issues such as safe abortion and LGBTI are consistently targeted by those working to deny SRHR; online bullying and harassment are rife; and the online presence of organisations advocating for safe abortion rights is threatened.
  • Mental health of advocates: to keep people engaged despite growing online fatigue, the mental health and wellbeing of advocates must be taken into account during these challenging times.