COPASAH Social Accountability Dialogue Series 2017

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Introduction: COPASAH launched its Social Accountability Dialogue Series (CoPSAD) in March 2017, with a view to facilitate mutual learning among practitioners and accountability thinkers across the globe. The series intends to enrich the field of social accountability with insights and experiences from the field of accountability practice. The first in the series of Social Accountability Dialogues was held on March 15, 2017, 14.30-15.30 (IST). COPASAH Global Convener, Dr. Abhijit Das shared insights and experiences from small scale efforts in India on the theme – Can Social Accountability Strengthen Family Planning Programming?

The Dialogue witnessed participation of nearly 21 persons from different geographical locations including Turkey, Pakistan, Myanmar, New Zealand and India.COPASAH coordinator, E. Premdas Pinto set out the context for the webinar with introduction to COPASAH, the Dialogue series and the speaker for the day along with the modalities of participation in the Dialogue.

Discussion and Presentation: Supported by a presentation, Dr. AbhijitDas discussed about the potential of using Social Accountability (SA) approaches to improve the quality of care of Family Planning (FP) services experienced by the community and the overall delivery of such services in India. Based on nearly two decades of experiences of SA practices in the family planning program the speaker reflected how SA practices influence policy and bring out some substantive changes. Highlighting upon the history of FP program as steeped in unequal power relationships framework, targeted approach, ridden with Malthusian anxieties, an obsession with permanent methods, an extremely gendered one and with a focus on female sterilizations, violations in camps and so forth; with support of quantitative and qualitative overview of FP from across states of India, the speaker elucidated examples as how embedded in SA both advocacy processes and ongoing community level interventions have yielded some significant results. Dr. Abhijit Das delineated that following SA approaches like of campwatch, community enquiries, women testimonies and other community preparations, change in three domains have been effected viz. at community level, CBOs, and providers and community has been able to share experiences, improve systemic performances, and participate in solutions as well hold the providers gently accountable and negotiate for rights in FP.  He reiterated that SA approaches involve iterative processes and feedback leads to results in it and to be influencing change SA approaches have to be a move beyond the narrow tool focus.

Film Showcasing: Subsequent to the deliberations made by the speaker, a small film reflecting upon the FP programme experiences from India was also showcased.Adding on to the discussion presented by Dr. Abhijit Das, public health researcher, Dr. Sana Contractor shared glimpses and experiences of family planning camps held in the state of Madhya Pradesh (India).

Questions, Comments and Discussions: To make the dialogue a participatory one; insights, comments and queries of participants were invited through the chat medium during the Dialogue. Following his presentation and enunciations, Dr. Abhijit Das responded to the thoughts shared by participants during the session. The participants comprising of an array of researchers, social accountability practitioners and thinkers and human rights experts sought insights of Dr. Das on varied themes related to the FP and social accountability. A participant also shared findings from ongoing study elucidating women experiences on sterilizations in India.  It was asked by participants how can the community voices be elevated to the global Sexual Reproductive Health advocacy arenas, have the SA approaches havehad any cross-cutting lessons for different programs and were BCC approaches used for social accountability and so forth. On the family planning front also queries were raised as does the NFHS do complication/death rates, and is there a regional divide on the data and so on.
It was mooted by Dr. Das that family planning is one of the dimensions where social accountability approaches have been used, the application of SA approaches has been to other domains including pre-school education, security schemes, PDS services etc. He reiterated that social accountability is a community oriented approach which builds more on the mobilization processes rather than individual autonomy. On account of elevating community voices through social accountability he outlined that it was a significant concern and there was a need to find ways of solidarity of community concerns as with increasing globalization of donor interest there has been very little globalization of community feedback, however he added that there are advocacy platforms for community voices taking to the global arena.