How to increase budget allocations for SRHR at the local level

Written by Oréaul Houedji, Le BACAR, Benin

What is the problem you faced at the local level that led to your advocacy with decentralised levels of government?

In Benin, decentralised government was established in 2003 with the first set of municipal and mutual elections. This was a major break from the strong centralisation of power under previous political regimes that had ruled after independence from France in 1960. This change has created major repercussions on governance at the local level.

Le BACAR, is a local NGO based in the north of Benin, working in community development to improve the status of women by supporting them to improve their welfare with do-it-yourself strategies.

At Le BACAR, we have a mission to contribute to the improvement of living conditions of women and children by promoting health and agricultural development, based on human rights, the protection of the environment and good governance.

In 2001, we began organising the large annual fair of Savalou, bringing together a hundred women’s groups each year.

In 2006 we conducted community-based problem analysis and prioritisation exercises in 114 villages. The issues of sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) were recurrent and the need for advocacy at the local, grassroots level was consistently identified. Subsequently, we have developed a stronger commitment to SRHR, with the participation of women’s groups.

What is local budget advocacy?

Advocating for increased budget allocation should be structured and well-organised.

It can support:

  • greater allocation of resources for SRHR
  • improved transparency and management of resources dedicated to SRHR
  • greater accountability of funders

Budget advocacy allows your organisation to be involved in how the government allocates and spends its resources and how these resources meet the needs of different population groups. Budget advocacy for health includes strategic communications and campaigning, to change the way public resources are used in the delivery of health services.

At the local level, this often involves the use of social mobilisation of communities to drive change at the most decentralised levels – linking citizens with policy making via local elected representatives.

In turn, this can boost national advocacy by offering examples and case studies that can be adopted at the national level.

What are the results that you have achieved through local budget advocacy?

We conducted a situation analysis as a prelude to the development of the Community Development Plan in the local authorities of Savalou and Bante.

We successfully advocated for the inclusion of a budget line for family planning of CFA100,000.

We established a consultation framework at the city level for women’s empowerment in Savalou and Bante, to ensure gender-sensitive policies and budgets and monitoring of commitments.

Our advocacy meetings with the local council in Bante led to the creation of a direct budget line for family planning.

What have you learned from this experience?

Local level advocacy is a very powerful strategy as:

  • key decision-makers at decentralised level:

are more accessible than decision-makers at the national level, both in terms of calendars and costs

feel more accountable towards their constituents and this drives them to take action

  • communities and stakeholders feel empowered as they can be directly involved in advocacy
  • relationships developed or sustained with decentralised and deconcentrated authorities are key to mobilising key actors
  • monitoring commitments is easier as key actors are involved from the start in advocacy efforts

What tips do you want to share with organisations that want to start using decentralised advocacy?

  • Take part in all processes linked to the creation or monitoring and evaluation of strategic documents at your level (e.g. City Development Plans, Monitoring and Evaluation Plan, etc.)
  • Make sure you are involved in data collection for your local-level statistics (share reports from NGOs with city councils and deconcentrated and decentralised authorities)  
  • To more effectively mobilise key actors for advocacy, timing is key: avoid weekends or any other social event (burial, baptism, wedding)
  • Link social and political mobilisation: obtaining a critical mass of allies within communities (women’s groups, youth movements, religious leaders) will add weight to your advocacy efforts.

Oréaul Houedji, Le BACAR, Benin

I am Oréaul Houedji, gender specialist and project manager. I have 10 years of experience in advocacy for youth and adolescent SRHR, especially relating to government budget allocation.

At Le BACAR we successfully advocated for the establishment of a dedicated budget line for family planning in the 2017 local budget.