Case study: The role of technology in relation to Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights

Despite an impressive array of policies committed to addressing sexual and reproductive health in South Africa, the country continues to experience very high levels of teenage pregnancy and women and girls are often negatively affected by gender relations, poor access to health services and a lack of knowledge about sexual reproduction, contraception and poverty.  At the same time, there is considerable excitement about the potential for Information Communication Technologies (ICTs) to provide solutions to health system challenges. In South Africa, there is a receptive policy environment for embracing e- and m-health, alongside innovative examples of ICT-based health delivery.  This policy case study will examine three interrelated aspects of sexual and reproductive health for women and girls in relation to South African policy and policy makers, namely:  
  • To what extent are South African policy makers and other stakeholders aware of the peri-urban as a particular place which shapes the sexual and reproductive health of women and girls?  
  • Who are the core actors advocating for ICT inclusion, and what are the key framings around sexual and reproductive health, ICTs and the peri-urban?
  • What processes of policy change are occurring:  What factors are enabling or challenging the incorporation of ICTs as a driver of policy change of sexual and reproductive health?  To what extent are policy makers using ICTs as a mechanism for addressing the challenges of women’s and girls’ sexual and reproductive health?  

Blog: The problem is political. Is the solution technical?

The world is becoming increasingly urban, with over half of the world’s total population now residing in cities. While urban areas offer many economic and livelihood opportunities, they are increasingly characterised by growing inequality, including in access to technology. In South Africa, the challenge of adolescents' and womens' sexual and reproductive health and rights in rural, peri-urban and inner-cities is political, but many propose technical solutions. Linda Waldman and Marion Stevens question whether technology really is the answer.

Read more...

Blog: Opportunities and challenges for the world’s first national mobile health initiative

MomConnect - a bold initiative and one of the first national, at scale, mobile health (mHealth) initiatives in the world - is being launched today by the South African National Department of Health. Linda Waldman, Fellow at the Institute of Development Studies (IDS) and researcher for the case study on the role of technology in sexual an reproductive health policy in South Africa, blogs about the potential benefits of this exciting initiative and asks: will the results from MomConnect finally provide evidence that mHealth initiatives can be successfully scaled up and can meet the health needs of the poor?

Read more...

Case study report

Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights and Information and Communications Technologies: A Policy Review and Case Study from South Africa

L Waldman, M Stevens 2015

Despite impressive legal provisions addressing sexual and reproductive health and rights, South Africa experiences very high levels of adolescent pregnancy and women and girls are often negatively affected by uneven gender relations, poor access to health services and a lack of knowledge about SRHR. Teenage sexual health is not uniform throughout South Africa, with poverty and place of residence strongly affecting outcomes. In particular, women and adolescents in rural and peri-urban (informal settlement or township) contexts experience neglect and exclusion from health-care services. In addition, poor South African women have inadequate knowledge about SRHR and thus struggle to make informed decisions.

At the same time, there is considerable excitement about the potential for ICT to provide solutions to health system challenges, with a receptive policy environment embracing e-health and m-health, and innovative examples of ICT-based health delivery.

This policy research examines three inter-related aspects of SRH for women and girls in South Africa, namely:

  • To what extent are policymakers and other stakeholders aware of the peri-urban as a particular place which shapes the SRH of women and girls?
  • Who are the core actors advocating for ICT inclusion, and what are the key framings around SRH, ICT and the peri-urban?
  • What factors are enabling or challenging the incorporation of ICT as a driver of policy change for SRH? To what extent are policymakers using ICT as a mechanism for addressing the challenges of women’s and girls’ SRHR?

Related resources

mHealth and Gender: Making the Connection

Waldman, Linda; Morgan, Rosemary; and George, Asha (2015)
The use of mHealth interventions withinin health systems research is increasing, with few taking into account the connections between gender and mHealth. This policy brief attempts to fill this gap by exploring key connections between mHealth and gender that need to be taken into account when conducting or implementing mHealth research and interventions.