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ACCESS Project: what we achieved and what we are doing now

Young Nepalese woman dressed in blue wearing a colourful hat looking to the camera

Author: Professor Lesley Hoggart, Associate Dean, Research

Just over a year ago the funding for one of WELS’s our largest development projects - ACCESS – was terminated by the British Government as part of its cuts in overseas aid funding.

ACCESS, which stands for ‘Approaches in Complex and Challenging Environments for Sustainable SRHR’ (sexual and reproductive health rights), aimed to produce a set of scalable, evidence-based, participatory approaches to support and engage marginalised and under-served populations to claim and access comprehensive sexual and reproductive health (SRH) information and services. It was a consortium led by the International Planned Parenthood Federation and included Frontline Aids, Internews, Women’s Refugee Commission and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, as well as The Open University.

Having the funding cut mid-project was both difficult and disappointing, not just for the researchers and organisations involved, but also for the many new local relationships that had already been struck up in the partner countries.

A year on from the funding being withdrawn, the ACCESS team thought it was important to celebrate what was achieved and outline what we hope to do moving forward. Although our funding was cut short, we achieved a lot with the initial budget which amounted to approximately £1million to the OU.

The ACCESS consortium developed a number of projects including disaster preparedness for SRHR in Nepal; safe abortion in Nepal; SRHR Justice in Uganda; Comprehensive Sexuality Education for Refugees in Uganda; and LGBT+ advocacy in Uganda.  We also agreed a number of core principles and approaches judged to be vital for ensuring sustainable SRHR solutions at scale. The principles are that the ACCESS projects should be working towards gender transformation and de-colonisation. The approaches that follow through from these principles are:

  • participation
  • co-creation and
  • community leadership of projects.

The OU team was key to the development of these principles and was also centrally involved in a number of the projects. There were a number of outputs from the work with more to follow:

Whilst the initial funding for ACCESS has come to an end, the OU team remain committed to working with marginalised communities to improve their sexual and reproductive health rights. Drawing inspiration from the ACCESS approach we will collaborate with consortium partners to seek alternative funding to continue this work.  With the support of institutional research funding, we are currently continuing to work in the following areas with partners in Uganda:

  • Human Rights Approaches (HRA) to Health in Global Development Settings: Developing the Evidence Base.
  • Developing contextually sensitive Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE) for out-of-school adolescents in refugee settings.

We also have three PhD students who were originally co-funded by ACCESS, and now by IPPF:

- Elise Denis-Ramirez: Exploring adolescents’ embodied understandings and perceptions of sexual and reproductive health including abortion: A feminist co-production study in Chile.

- Elizabeth Ascroft: Co-creation of Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE) Resources in Aruba.

- Martha Nicholson: Learning to provide abortion care in Northern Ireland post-2020 legal reform; a study of how knowledge of abortion care is created, coordinated, and applied amongst midwives and nurses.

OU project team

Professor Lesley Hoggart

Professor Peter Keogh

Dr Rebecca Jones

Dr Koula Charitonos

Dr Joyceline Alla-Mensah

Ellen Scott

Gail Vardy

Martha Tengenesha

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