French action for sexual, reproductive, maternal, child and adolescent health rights


France’s action for sexual, reproductive, maternal, child and adolescent health and rights

For the World Health Organization (WHO), sexual health is defined as “a state of physical, emotional, mental and social well-being in relation to sexuality [which] requires a positive and respectful approach to sexuality and sexual relationships, as well as the possibility of having pleasurable and safe sexual experiences, free of coercion, discrimination and violence.”

For women, reproductive health includes the capacity and the freedom to decide if and when they want to have children.

It is therefore a comprehensive approach to sexuality that aims to be positive and is not limited to health aspects.

An essential aspect of development policies

In 2016, the Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs published, for the first time, France’s External action on issues of population and sexual and reproductive health and rights 2016-2020 strategy report, in support of the implementation of the Programme of Action adopted at the International Conference on Development and Population in Cairo in 1994. For the first time, this roadmap referred to the concept of “sexual and reproductive health” and declared that development policies needed to take gender equality into account.

France has since strengthened its actions in official development assistance, in particular via the French Muskoka Fund, the Agence Française de Développement (AFD)’s programmes and in synergy with European programmes. The aim is to fulfil the needs of women and girls while assisting States, especially in West and Central Africa, in their demographic transition. France thereby plays a driving role in defending ambitious positions on the international political agenda, on the matter of sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR), in particular through support for the Global Fund for Survivors of Conflict-Related Sexual Violence founded by Nobel Peace Prize winners Ms Nadia Murad and Dr Denis Mukwege.

In addition, France will be hosting the Generation Equality Forum in June 2021, an event that will mark decisive progress for the rights of women and girls and to accelerate the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development goals for a fairer society. President of the French Republic Emmanuel Macron wanted France to be a champion of the coalition addressing the topic of SRHR. This coalition of stakeholders is an opportunity to create new multilateral spaces to strengthen alliances and raise the ambitions to protect sexual and reproductive health and rights.

The French Muskoka Fund

The French Muskoka Fund was launched at the G8 in Muskoka, Canada, in June 2010. It is an innovative mechanism that brings together four United Nations bodies: the World Health Organization (WHO), the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) and UN Women. Its aim is to improve the health and well-being of mothers, newborns, children and adolescents in West and Central Africa.

With more than €140 million allocated to the UN bodies since 2011, the French Muskoka Fund focuses its actions in nine sub-Saharan African countries: Benin, Burkina Faso, Chad, Côte d’Ivoire, Guinea, Mali, Niger, Senegal, and Togo.
These countries represent a total population of approximately 120 million inhabitants and one of the most disadvantaged regions of the world.

In terms of health, the countries where the Fund operates register the highest maternal and infant mortality rates in the world, with 31,500 maternal deaths (537 for 100,000 live births) and 649,922 neonatal and infant deaths (from 44 in every 1,000 live births in Senegal to 119 per 1000 in Chad) in 2018 (WHO Data Repository).

Certain damaging practices also remain extremely widespread in these countries. In Mali, 86% of girls aged 15 to 19 have suffered genital mutilations. In Niger, 76% of girls were married before the age of 18 (UNFPA 2019).

On average, less than one in five women of childbearing age had access to a modern contraception method (UNFPA 2020). The rate of teenage pregnancy (between 15 and 19) is 108 for every 1000 in the region (UNFPA, 2020).

By mobilizing the technical and complementary competencies of these four UN bodies, the French Muskoka Fund helps strengthen partnerships between countries in the region. The FMF also works to strengthen public policies and mobilize technical and financial partners. It assists governments with their efforts to invest in support of the health and well-being of women, newborns, children and adolescents at all levels (national, regional and international).

Gender equality was declared “a grand cause of President Macron’s term”, and the French Muskoka Fund was identified as a tool to achieve equality between men and women at the Interministerial Committee on International Cooperation and Development (CICID) meeting in February 2018. It implements high-impact operations, encouraging community engagement and political action, in order to:

  • Accelerate a decrease in maternal and infant mortality and morbidity, and malnutrition in West and Central African countries;
  • Foster progress in sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR), especially for young people and adolescents;
  • Promote gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls;
  • Support the strengthening of countries’ health systems.

Since it was set up in the countries where it operates, the FMF has helped to:

  • Reduce the maternal mortality rate by 17% between 2000 and 2017;
  • Reduce the neonatal mortality rate by 22% between 2011 and 2019;
  • Reduce infant and child mortality by 32% between 2011 and 2019;
  • Increase the rate of births assisted by qualified professionals by 11 percentage points between 2010 and 2016;
  • Build capacities and enhance training for more than 16,000 healthcare workers (doctors, nurses, midwives, community health workers);
Spotlight on C’est la Vie! Edutainment serving reproductive, maternal, neonatal, child and adolescent health

Since 2017, the French Muskoka Fund has supported the development and roll-out of the C’est la Vie! (CLV) project.

CLV is a multimedia campaign for social and behavioural change in West Africa. Based on a televised “edutainment” series that combines education and entertainment, it aims to provide support in adopting safer and more respectful behaviours in terms of sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR). It fosters leadership, participation and empowerment for young people, and especially girls. Launched in Dakar in Senegal, the CLV project is active at the community level in the nine countries where the FMF operates.

In short, C’est la Vie! is:

  • A TV series (three seasons) partly translated into local languages (Hausa, Wolof, Lingala, Peul and Mandinka), broadcast on private pan-African channels, national channels and online;
  • A radio adaptation to reach new audiences (with translations in local languages);
  • A digital ecosystem: website, social media, web series, teasers, interviews, making-of, etc.;
  • A teaching kit to lead community education sessions (for young people and their parents): the aim of the kit is to boost the impact of the series in communities. It supports ownership of SRHR messages by strengthening positive attitudes and social representations.

Themed workshops enhance discussions, mobilize knowledge, reveal social representations, help participants question their attitudes and practices and strengthen the feeling of self-efficacy to make decisions that are good for their health.

CLV provides a means for action on the following topics: puberty and reproduction, contraception and family planning, sexuality (consent and respect), child marriage, female genital mutilation, menstrual health and hygiene, breastfeeding, pregnancy monitoring, sexual violence and domestic violence.

Sub-Saharan Africa as a whole has taken an interest in the series, which has been broadcast since June 2016 across 39 national TV channels and on TV5 Monde.

Updated: February 2021