By Moctar MENTA
The International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF) Director General Dr. Alvaro Bermejo visited Benin from February 3rd to 7th, 2024. This milestone visit, the first ever to Benin, aimed to strengthen ongoing collaboration between IPPF and its member association “Association Béninoise pour la Promotion de la Famille – ABPF”. It builds on the remarkable advances Benin has made in sexual and reproductive health and rights - most notably the recent passing and enactment of a historic sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) legal framework liberalizing abortion, representing a first for the West African sub-region.
Warm Welcome by ABPF Leadership, Staff and Youth
Upon arrival in Cotonou, IPPF Director General Dr. Alvaro Bermejo was greeted by the leadership of the ABPF, including Executive Director, Mr. Comlan Christian Agbozo, Board Chair Ms. Olive Fleur Oussougoe, past-Chair Ms. Judith Maffon Gbehinto, and Youth Chair Ms. Joliane Attolou.
They held a briefing session focused on ABPF’s expanding sexual and reproductive health programs across communities, through static clinics, mobile outreach, extensive partnerships, and over 1,000 dedicated youth volunteers. Discussions centered on challenges around financing and conservative opposition, alongside opportunities leveraging Benin’s new landmark SRHR legal framework ushering healthcare access and equity.
Engagements with Key Government Partners
During his stay, Dr. Alvaro Bermejo met with high-level stakeholders to discuss strengthening collaboration and commitment to advance SRHR in Benin.
Honorable Louis Vlavonou, President of the National Assembly, expressed gratitude for IPPF and member association ABPF Benin's vital support in the successful passage of landmark laws in 2021 focused on protecting reproductive rights, combatting gender-based violence and upholding healthcare access.
"IPPF and ABPF Benin have been indispensable partners in driving the legal reforms expanding healthcare access and equity in Benin. We reinforce our joint efforts to ensure comprehensive oversight and implementation of these hard-won policies," said President Vlavonou.
His Excellency Abdoulaye Bio Tchane, Minister of State for Planning and Development, invited IPPF and ABPF Benin to contribute technical expertise in upcoming national advocacy focused on balanced family planning and ensuring parents are empowered to sustainably provide for children.
"Benin has been a leader regionally on population policies balancing reproductive rights with sustainable development. We welcome IPPF and ABPF's ongoing contributions across awareness, service delivery and impactful cooperation with government," Minister Bio Tchane remarked.
Ms. Huguette Bokpe Gnacadja, President of the National Women’s Institute, applauded ABPF Benin’s longstanding community programs advancing gender equality and women’s social, economic and political representation across Benin. She reinforced steadfast collaboration translating policy commitments into impactful change.
Underscoring Regional Leadership on SRHR
Additionally, Dr. Bermejo met with the Minister of Health, His Excellency Benjamin Hounkpatin, to discuss Benin's potential to serve as a model on SRHR progress regionally.
"Benin's advances on healthcare access and equity can set an example and learnings for other African countries to replicate," noted Dr. Bermejo.
He reiterated IPPF’s firm support through ABPF Benin to ensure comprehensive rollout and oversight of Benin’s new SRHR legal framework.
Minister Hounkpatin acknowledged ABPF Benin’s 50+ years of outstanding SRHR programs and reinforced commitment to maintain momentum ushering in a new era of healthcare in Benin.
High-Level Panel to Advance Joint Civil Society Roadmap
On his last day visiting Benin, Dr. Bermejo participated in a high-level panel discussion focused on “Civil Society Organizations at the Heart of Promoting Sustainable Development and Social Responsibility for Sexual and Reproductive Health.”
The event brought together diverse local CSOs to explore persistent SRHR challenges, identify collaborative solutions, and reinforce coordination toward universal healthcare access grounded in rights, inclusion, and partnerships across all of Benin’s communities.
Reinvigorated Momentum to Uphold SRHR in Benin
IPPF Director General Dr. Alvaro Bermejo’s visit galvanized actors across Benin's government and civil society, forging purposeful collaboration to build on remarkable progress. By spotlighting ABPF's impact and securing high-level commitments, the trip paved the way for intensified cooperation upholding access and equity to transform sexual and reproductive health outcomes.