Survivors of sexual and gender-based violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo stand together. (Crystal Stafford/IMA World Health)

IMA World Health’s vision of health, healing and well-being for all calls for joining hands with others to address the mindsets and systems that are essential to change. When both the stakes and the obstacles are high, informed voices, creative approaches and sustained effort are required. Partnerships are invaluable in advocacy, as they leverage experience, networks and constituencies for an impact far beyond the sum of what individual efforts could achieve.

We Will Speak Out

IMA has been an active member since 2011 of the global We Will Speak Out coalition to end sexual violence. We engaged our member organizations to spearhead the launch of a U.S.-based, multifaith initiative known as We Will Speak Out U.S. in 2013 and continue to host the secretariat. We Will Speak Out U.S. works to generate action and advocacy to end the silence around the public health crisis of sexual and gender-based violence, or SGBV, and to reduce stigma for survivors. We Will Speak Out U.S. unites the voices and efforts of 19 member organizations, and more than 25,000 individuals have signed the Pledge Against Violence.

In 2015, IMA and We Will Speak Out U.S. worked to build on the knowledge gained from the “2014 Broken Silence report”. The study highlighted the findings of a LifeWay Research poll of 1,000 U.S. Protestant pastors about their understanding and responses to SGBV. IMA and the coalition worked with the Science, Religion and Culture Program at Harvard Divinity School to conduct additional research and release a follow-up report, “Interrogating the Silence”. The report highlighted the results of a qualitative study of seven Boston-area congregations examining the untapped potential, challenges and opportunities of faith communities to prevent and respond to SGBV.

We Will Speak Out U.S. also hosted a parallel event at the U.N. Commission on the Status of Women and a panel at the Sojourner’s Summit for Change, bringing in diverse voices and perspectives on engaging male allies to end SGBV.

Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance

Founded in 2000, Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, is committed to expanding children’s access to immunizations worldwide through a public-private partnership among U.N. institutions, governments, the pharmaceutical industry and civil society. IMA’s President and CEO, Rick Santos, served a three-year term on the steering committee for the Gavi CSO Constituency for Immunisation and Stronger Health Systems, which works to strengthen participation by civil society. For the last year of his term, which ended in May 2017, he was vice-chair of the steering committee. His service continues as the Oversight Advisory Group Chair, which means he will continue to work with the steering committee and larger constituency through the end of 2018.

Faith-Based Action Framework to End Extreme Poverty and Realize the Sustainable Development Goals: Evidence Working Group

Just prior to the U.N. Sustainable Development Summit in September 2015, IMA participated with a diverse group of stakeholders to develop and affirm a Faith-Based Action Framework to End Extreme Poverty and Realize the Sustainable Development Goals, with three working groups organized to carry the Framework forward.

The SDGs reflect global agreements on 2016–2030 priorities and targets. Health targets include a dramatic reduction in maternal mortality, ending preventable neonatal and under-5 deaths as well as ending the epidemics of AIDS, TB, malaria and neglected tropical diseases. Gender equality and empowerment targets call for eliminating all forms of violence against women and girls and ensuring access to sexual and reproductive health services. Targets for hunger (including improved nutrition) and water and sanitation clearly play a role in health as well.

IMA is deeply committed to these global goals and makes strong contributions where we work. In addition, as a member of the Faith-Based Action Framework’s Evidence Working Group, we collaborate on efforts to provide encouragement and tools for faith-based groups of all sizes and sorts, especially grassroots groups in the developing world, to take evidence seriously—using evidence-based approaches and documenting their own work as partners in achieving the SDGs.

Adding our voice

In the complex world of advocacy, sometimes we initiate efforts and other times we respond by endorsing platforms that advance goals we share with others. In 2016, IMA responded to and participated in initiatives of consortia partners and others as a co-signatory on a variety of high-profile position statements:

  • Letter to President Obama at United Nations General Assembly
  • Global Strategy for Women’s, Children’s and Adolescents’ Health
    Gayle Smith, USAID Administrator, support letter
  • InterAction FY17 Letter for Public Policy Committee
  • FY17 State and Foreign Operations Humanitarian and poverty-focused development assistance funding letter
  • FY17 Organizational Sign on Letter for maternal and child health roundtable and U.S. Coalition for Child Survival
  • InterAction World Water Day 2016
  • FY2017 Community Sign on Letter in support of State and Foreign Operations spending – U.S. House and U.S. Senate
  • Faith-Based Organization Statement of Support for the Global Food Security Act
  • Letter to Senator Corker in support of the End Modern Slavery Act
  • Universal Health Coverage Declaration