(September 2008) Because the Willows Reproductive Health Project reaches out to poor women in many communities in Turkey, no one will know precisely the identity or location of the 1-millionth woman served. However, by the end of 2008 it is likely that a new client in one of Willows’ sites will represent that magical number. The statistic itself will not be an estimate: within nine years, the project will have reached over 1 million women, contacting each woman individually and keeping records on her demographic profile, health status and reproductive history, and fertility intentions and needs.
Officially entitled the Willows Foundation Community-Based Reproductive Rights and Health Information, Education and Referral Services Project, this remarkable community-based program is commonly known as the Willows Reproductive Health Project or more simply, the Willows Project. Because the project appears to unfold so seamlessly, many people who have come to Turkey to observe its operation are unaware of the behind-the-scenes planning, monitoring, and local adjustments it requires. It has taken not only a grand vision but also practical, efficient management to coordinate its many moving parts: extensive baseline research; recruitment and training of community volunteers to do outreach; working with local political leaders, government health officials, and clinic staff to gain support for the project and improve services at clinics; partnerships with universities and other agencies; monitoring and evaluation; and a detailed recordkeeping system. The results are impressive: a significant rise in contraception and other reproductive health behaviors, improved health services, increased use of those health services, and empowered field workers.
This booklet describes the origin and development of the Willows Project—a successful, sustainable, and replicable model for improving reproductive health.
Elaine M. Murphy is chair, Willows Foundation Board of Directors, and Bixby Visiting Scholar, Population Reference Bureau.