Assessing political priority for reproductive health in Ethiopia


Ethiopia is among the top six countries contributing to the highest numbers of maternal deaths globally. The Ethiopian total fertility rate was estimated at 4.8 in 2011, and the use of contraceptives by married women was 29%. Lack of knowledge, cultural stigma surrounding abortion, and barriers to access of services contribute to persistently high rates of unsafe abortion and abortion-related mortality. This study seeks to assess the generation and institutionalization of political priority for reproductive health within the political systems of Ethiopia. Interviews with key policy makers, government ministers, academics, and leaders of prominent non-governmental organizations in Ethiopia between July 2010 and January 2011 were conducted, using Shiffman and Smith’s Framework, to analyse the key actors and ideas behind the shift towards prioritization of reproductive health in Ethiopia, as well as the political context and primary characteristics of the issues that propelled progressive action in reproductive health in that country. Some of the key lessons point to the readiness of the Ethiopian government to reform and to improve the socio-economic status of the population. The role of civil society organizations working alongside the government was crucial to creating a window of opportunity in a changing political climate to achieve gains in reproductive health. To our knowledge, this is the first time Shiffman and Smith’s Framework has been used for reproductive health policies. We conclude that Ethiopian experience fits well within this framework for understanding prioritization of global health issues and may serve as a model for other sub-Saharan African countries.

Published in Reproductive Health Matters.

Ndola Prata
Anna Summer
Publication date: 
February 9, 2016
Publication type: 
Journal Article