Plans, Reports & Policies
This is a summary of Women and Children First’s Programmes Strategy. The complete document can be downloaded here
Women and Children First (UK) was established in 2001 in response to the ongoing need to address the unacceptably high levels of maternal, newborn and child mortality and morbidity in some of the world’s most vulnerable communities.
The Strategic Plan for 2013 - 2015 includes refinements to the vision, mission and values, the definition of a theory of change and the articulation of five strategies to deliver the mission.
The Programmes Strategy provides the framework for the design, implementation and evaluation of the delivery of Women and Children First’s operating strategies:
- Increase the scale and impact of our work to mobilise communities and health care providers to improve maternal, newborn and child health.
- Establish Women and Children First as the leading expert to provide technical assistance in the participatory learning and action cycle (women’s groups) approach to improving maternal, newborn and child health.
- and our effective influencing strategy:
- Keep maternal, newborn and child health at the forefront of the evolving international and sustainable development policy agenda.
We will work with women, adolescent girls and children under five to prevent unnecessary death in childbirth and ensure that women receive the information, services and support they need.
Our contribution and focus
- We are a niche organisation offering technical expertise, support and consultancy to our partners.
- We use evidence-based methods to empower women to advocate for their right to health.
- We build women’s capacity to take control over their and their children’s health.
- We adopt complementary approaches to develop demand, whilst pressing for high quality services to be provided by government, the private sector and NGOs at local, regional, and provincial levels.
- We advocate for maternal, newborn and child health to be at the top of the agenda in policy and practice, both locally and internationally.
- We have developed an advocacy strategy to keep maternal, newborn and child health at the forefront of the evolving international and sustainable development policy agenda.
Our Vision is an equitable world where all women and children have good health.
Our Mission is to improve maternal, newborn and child health in poor and marginalised communities in developing countries.
This is achieved by working with partners to raise awareness of maternal, newborn and child health issues. We mobilise communities, healthcare providers, funders and influencers to find solutions which empower women to exercise their health rights.
Women and Children First’s values are:
- Southern partner-led approach
- Evidence-based programmes
- Rights-based approach
- Equity in partnerships
- Equitable access to health information and services
- Transparency and accountability
- Value for money
- Ethical funding
3. Theory of change
Our theory of change defines the overall context for our international programmes, highlighting the complex range of issues which contribute to poor maternal, newborn and child health, then identifying six key issues which we are well placed to address.
The first three key areas require sophisticated multi-sectoral responses from a range of stakeholders.
1) Poverty reduction.
2) Improving the status of women.
3) Increasing the political will to deliver effective, well planned, well resourced, accessible, high quality health systems.
The last three areas focus on direct drivers of maternal, newborn and child health to which Women and Children First can make a direct, measurable contribution.
4) Changing knowledge, beliefs and behaviours within communities.
5) Increasing access to effective and appropriate maternal, newborn and child health information and services.
6) Increasing access to effective and appropriate sexual and reproductive health information and services for young people.
4. The programmes strategy
Women and Children First works with local partners who are responsible for local programme managements. Our role is to provide technical know-how, support and consultancy.
Our programmes encompass three complementary approaches:
1) Community mobilisation through participatory women’s groups
2) Health systems strengthening
3) Policy analysis, advocacy and influencing.
Our programmes focus on Millennium Development Goals 4 and 5 but also contribute to achieving Goals 1 (Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger), 3 (Promote gender equality and empower women) and 6 (Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases).
Values based programmes
Our values encompass the spirit of how we want to work.
The scope of our work
Women and Children First is a small, flexible and effective international non-governmental organisation with a clear mission and well-defined values. However the challenges are huge and our capacity is limited, so the programmes strategy aligns our operations to our strategic plan – specifically to increase the scale and impact of our work to mobilise communities and health care providers to improve maternal, newborn and child health.
We will work in poor and marginalised communities that have some of the highest rates of maternal and newborn mortality worldwide. Direct beneficiaries include women of childbearing age, girls, pregnant women and their newborns and other children under five. Indirect beneficiaries include family members (fathers, siblings) and community members (village and religious leaders). Health care staff may be both direct and indirect beneficiaries.
- Working in partnership
We will work in partnership with NGOs, governments, professional associations and academic institutions. We will also work with men, adolescent boys, traditional and religious leaders, health workers and other stakeholders to ensure the beneficiaries receive the information, services and support they need.
- Geographic scope
Our focus on Africa is driven in part by the continuing high maternal, newborn and child mortality rates in many African countries. We will expand our work in Malawi where we have achieved encouraging results, and continue our work in Uganda and Ethiopia.
Decisions about our programmes in Asia (Bangladesh and India) will be made in conjunction with existing and potential partners in 2012-13.
- Thematic scope
Our core work of improving maternal, newborn and child health is not achievable without addressing some crosscutting issues. We will include interventions for sexual and reproductive health and rights, HIV/AIDS, malaria, nutrition, and gender equity insofar as these impact on maternal, newborn and child health and can be accomplished within programmes that focus on our core work.
Strategy 1: Increase the scale and impact of our work to mobilise communities and health care providers to improve maternal, newborn and child health
Many complex multi-sectoral issues – such as lack of infrastructure – undermine maternal, newborn and child health. Addressing these is beyond our scope so our work focuses on health systems, aiming to strengthen both the demand and supply sides.
Our evidence base and core expertise is in community mobilisation focused on a participatory learning and action cycle delivered through women’s groups, health systems strengthening, and advocacy and influencing.
Our programmes work to reduce the three delays that result in high levels of maternal and newborn mortality: seeking appropriate medical help for an obstetric emergency; reaching an appropriate obstetric facility; and receiving adequate care at the facility.
- Demand side interventions
Community mobilisation stimulates improvements to the health and wellbeing of communities by empowering community members – including influential “gatekeepers” – to identify, address and advocate for their right to accessible quality health care.
Randomised control trials demonstrate the effectiveness of the women’s groups approach and we are learning how to adapt this to different local contexts. The groups develop their own strategies, mobilise their own resources and self-evaluate their work.
- Supply side interventions
Health system strengthening aims to develop the capacity of low income countries to plan, manage and deliver high quality, responsive health care equally within communities.
We select interventions with potential for long-term impact, and improve health services through training and systems strengthening.
- Advocacy and influencing
Policy analysis and advocacy initiatives can influence those in positions of power to bring about changes that make a real difference to people’s health and welfare. Partners will receive Women and Children First’s training and support and, in turn, will provide support to communities and women’s groups.
Strategy 2: Establish Women and Children First as the leading expert to provide technical assistance in the participatory learning and action cycle (women’s groups) approach to improving maternal, newborn and child health.
We will identify other organisations working to improve maternal, newborn and child health, and assess the market for our services to enable them to include the tried and tested women’s groups approach in their programmes.
5. Delivering the programmes strategy
Increasing our partnerships
Effective and equitable partnerships are essential to the success of our approach. We have worked with the partners in our current programme countries for up to 10 years and plan to continue collaboration with them.
However, to increase our impact, we will need to work with more partners and build our own capacity to identify and assess potential partners. With funding from Comic Relief, we will develop a partnership manual to guide the selection of appropriate partners and provide the framework for effective new partnerships.
Supporting our partners
We aim to provide high quality, appropriate, strategic and technical support to our partners. This includes working collaboratively and providing advice on project design, resource mobilisation, technical assistance to ongoing projects, operations research, monitoring and evaluation, policy and advocacy, communications and dissemination.
Demonstrating the effectiveness and impact of our work
A major strength of our programming work is the ability to demonstrate results through robust monitoring and evaluation. We will ensure that an appropriate framework is in place and that external evaluations are scheduled for every new programme.
We will to continue to test the efficacy of the women’s group approach in different contexts as well as for addressing other issues such as family planning, nutrition and preventing mother-to-child transmission of HIV.
Our links with UCL’s Centre for International Health and Development and other partners have allowed us to demonstrate impact at a high level through randomised control trials. We are keen to continue this working relationship and to develop new relationships with academic organisations, particularly in programme countries.
Our programmes are designed to have maximum potential to influence country level policy and funding and/or be absorbed into mainstream service delivery.
Working closely with Ministries of Health and promoting/supporting health system strengthening is likely to contribute to sustainability, as is project delivery through nationally registered organisations with local staff.
We do not yet have hard evidence, but anecdotal evidence supports the assumption that women’s groups interventions are sustainable. We want to find ways of testing this, but donors are not interested in funding ex-post evaluations.
7. Objectives, activities, risks and assumptions and progress measurement
Each strategy within the Women and Children First strategic plan has a set of SMART objectives. Each individual programme will be monitored and evaluated against these, and the results collated to assess overall organisational delivery.
10 Year Reviews
Women and Children First celebrated its 10th birthday during 2011. In those 10 years we and our partners in Bangladesh, Malawi, Nepal and India have proved that our way of working with women really does save lives. The work continues.
This 10 Year Review describes the highlights of our work since 2001 and provides up-to-date information about our international programmes and advocacy achievements in Africa, Asia and the UK during the last year. It also includes as a snapshot of our finances for 2010.
Our 2015 Trustee's Report and Financial Statements are available to download.
Download the Women and Children First Annual Report 2015
Download the Women and Children First Cherish Another Mother Annual Review 2014