The Solomon Islands:
This is where the Solomon Islands situation becomes very relevant.
The Solomon Islands are a deeply religious society who are known for their tolerance of other faiths and have been noted by researchers for an inability to understand atheism (Chevalier:2009). Churches in the Solomon Islands permeate all strata’s of private and professional life with Christian concepts invoked in political discourse even at national level with it being common place to start meetings with a prayer and it taken for granted that religious values will influence political decisions. They play a leading role in community life, particularly in rural areas as virtually every villages has a church with services being held daily (Chevalier:2009). As well as influencing values religious organisations both run and staff health clinics, hospitals, and schools. They are known to be the vehicle for social mobilisation (Chevalier:2009)
As well as Christian values the Solomon Islands have a rich heritage of Kastom, which is indiginous culture and tradition a distinct set of values from the ‘whiteman way’(Chevalier:2009). Kastom is well detailed by Chevalier in; “Kastom includes matters related to social and cultural relationships based on the fundamental constructs of land and bloodlines (including kinship, clan, line, residence and language [wantok – one talk] – critical to the way the country functions. Cultural traditions are continuously in interaction with each other and modern ways. The different demands of kastom and modernity create an underlying tension that outsiders need to heed and understand (eg demands on a person due to funeral arrangements, etc.) There is cultural diversity both within and between provinces.” (Chevalier:2009)
There is widespread acceptance that children are a valued part of life and planning is unnecessary in the Solomon Islands. The Pacifika Medical Association “Strategic Plan 2009 – 2014” states the pacific values to be; “Valuing the knowledge base and aspirations of our churches and communities.” As well as;“Acknowledging the family as the foundation and strength of our communities”. (Pacifika Medical Association : 2009)
IPPF Vision for the Solomon Islands:
It is against this backdrop of Christianity and Kastom that IPPF currently define the Solomon Islands as a “cost-benefit analyses” location (IPPF:2010). Collaborating with the Burnet Institute the cost –benefit analyses of family planning in the Solomon Islands focus on identifying how different levels of investment made in family planning now, can affect the sexual and reproductive health of individuals, the population and demographic makeup of countries, and government expenditure on core sectors over the future(IPPF:2010). It is an analysis of what investment now will return in revenue from contraceptive sales, abortions, income from private funders, aid agencies and the Solomon Islands government once policy change is legislated and MDG goals are enforced through the IPPF.
IPPF Vision regarding Solomon Islands Ministry of Health Legislation:
When effecting national change it is essential to affect policy change and win funding. With this in mind the Burnet Institute forecast that in the short term IPPF cost-benefit analyses will provide policy makers in the Solomon Island Ministry of Health with evidence-based arguments for improving family planning services(IPPF:2010). It goes further in the long term, with hopes that IPPF will directly contribute to policy change that “improves Pacific people’s sexual and reproductive health and rights, as well as further the objectives of the International Conference on Population and Development Programme of Action (IPPF:2010).
The initial steps have been successful in introducing family planning ideology and contraceptive use through local organisations, and agitating through policy channels using the weight of international MDGs and UNESCAP projections. Political support has already secured with The initial steps have been successful in introducing family planning ideology and contraceptive use through local organisations, and agitating through policy channels using the weight of international MDGs and UNESCAP projections. Political support has already secured with the Solomon Islands national Health Strategic Plan 2010 – 15 which aims to achieve ICPD and MDGs with reproductive health ranking high on the National Development Agenda(IPPF:2010). The Ministry of Health intend to increase the programmes funding allocation to 16% to “revitalise its Family Planning programme”(IPPF:2010). Which if compared to Vision goals puts the Solomon Islands firmly in the realm of successful political policy influencing.
With growing Political support The International Conference on Populationa dn Development Plan of Action aim to achieve a minimum of 55% contraceptive prevalence rate in all countries by 2010 (UNESCO:2004). Contraceptive Prevalence Rate in the Solomon’s was 11% in 1996, 7% in 2000 and rose to 26% in 2008 (Trading Economics:2010) and according to Global Health estimates the Solomon Islands ranked 87th globally with 34.6% contraceptive prevalence rating in 2010(Global Health:2010).
In combinations with support and funding from the Solomon Island Government the IPPF campaign for development funds from international aid agencies. To guarantee international development money, the Framework announces IPPF’s intention to tie the current United Nations development initiative, called the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), to reproductive rights, even though the MDGs do not explicitly mention reproductive rights(Framework: 2005). According to the Framework, IPPF “will build relationships with governments, NGOs and other key influential groups to demonstrate the linkage and importance of sexual and reproductive health rights to the wider development agenda (MDGs/Poverty Reduction Strategies) and by this achieve greater allocation of resources”.(Framework:2005))
When accessing international funding for family planning programmes the IPPF promote their programmes as an empowering lifestyle change and sexual rights as in the submission for Solomon Island project funding to NZAID; “Key to this is enabling couples in their reproductive years to choose the number and spacing of their children. They require access to comprehensive, quality sexual and reproductive health information and services. This is lacking in many Pacific Island Countries Statistics which show that the youth of Pacific Island countries are not being provided the information and services they need (FPA:2007)
While political support is relatively easy to garner the main obstacles for meeting IPPF goals are Solomon Island traditional culture and religion which have prompted IPPF to implement their Vision 2000 and Framework 2005-2015 steps: “enter into a dialogue with political, religious, and cultural opinion leaders to liberalise their attitudes toward safe abortion.”(Framework :2005). When this fails;” condemn incidents of any political administrative or social barriers curtailing this right.”(Framework:2005)
Look out for Part Three of this article.