Vicky Boydell

2016 Winner

Position: Senior Rights and Accountability Advisor
Organization: The Evidence Project/IPPF

Vicky Boydell is the Rights and Accountability Advisor for the Evidence Project at the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF). She is a development practitioner with over 12 years’ experience in the field of family planning, reproductive health and gender equality. Before joining the Evidence Project, she worked for the UN Women’s Fund for Gender Equality and in IPPF’s External Relations division. She holds a PhD in anthropology from the London School of Economics and Political Science, which focuses on clients’ perspectives of contraception and services.

Dr. Boydell is conducting cutting-edge research on how social accountability and rights-based family planning approaches affect service and individual-level outcomes in FP service delivery.


Describe your contributions to and achievements in family planning.

For over decade I have been undertaking research to better understand and place women’s needs and behaviours at the centre of family planning programming. From my doctorate research on contraceptive -use through to testing new advocacy methodologies linking the local and global, both of which continue today. More recently I am doing implementation science to ensure research findings have real-world application, particularly how we can use community led monitoring to address issues in contraceptive delivery and clients’ full, free and informed choice. I am also testing an innovative facility based tools that measures individual facilities’ readiness to implement rights-based family planning, including identifying areas where there are potential rights vulnerabilities that can be addressed.

What sparked your passion for family planning?

In 2001 I was living in El Salvador. Hearing friends regularly describe the utter lack of bodily integrity they experienced, and the steps they would take in the absence of contraception, profoundly moved me. Shortly after this I started my research on contraceptive use that took me to clinics in Indonesia, the Philippines and the United Kingdom. Though cultures, contexts and quality of care varied greatly, the anxieties and vulnerabilities posed by an unplanned pregnancy did not.

What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced in your family planning efforts, and what have you done to overcome it?

Respecting, protecting and fulfilling human rights remains a challenge, particularly with the push for numeric goals that may jeopardize women and men’s rights, but we have found a way to start to tackle this. Under the Evidence project, I am leading a study to develop a tool that translates declarations and conventions into practical action on the ground. In Uganda, we are testing a facility audit to measure adherence to rights-based family planning in service delivery.

What is your (country/region/city)’s biggest challenge in family planning, and how can it be addressed?

In the UK, despite efforts to increase and incentivise long acting methods and emergency contraception, the rate of unplanned pregnancies remains static. Research increasingly points to the fact that women know about family planning and how to access and use it, but they do not see themselves at risk of pregnancy. Our challenge is to better understand contraceptive use from the users’ point of view and develop programs that respond to their needs.

What do you want to accomplish in the next 5 years?

It is an exciting time with growing momentum for client centred and rights-based approaches. Over the next 5 years I will continue to carry out research that places users at the centre of our programming. This includes further developing practical tools to ensure that users’ rights are respected, protected and fulfilled. This includes the urgent need to better understand the needs and behaviours of users and non-users, and converting the ‘last mile’ into the first when we design programs.