September 2017

My body, my health rights, my choice

By Mwape Kaunda, youth volunteer at Planned Parenthood Association of Zambia

Coming from a family that are strong believers of tradition, for me abortion had always been portrayed as sinful and evil. Myths like; abortion will leave a woman barren and, people who die from abortion turn black from all the bleeding. Hearing all those myths made me detest and fear abortion but upon acquiring knowledge I made it my aim to ensure people change their attitudes towards abortion and the women who practice abortion. It became vital that accurate information should be disseminated. Being an activist and advocate hadn’t been easy because the beliefs are deeply rooted in society.

I remember once coming out publicly saying “If I get pregnant today and I am not ready to be a mother, I wouldn’t hesitate to have an abortion.” The reaction I got from the community was quite disappointing, women especially called me spoilt and said that I had no values. Hearing those hurtful words almost made me give up on advocating for safe abortion but my determination was stronger.

With time, people in my community started to loosen up on abortion, then you would hear people talk about abortion openly. Completely abolishing stigma is a gradual process – whenever I refer a woman to a health centre to access abortion services I am slowly accomplishing my target of a community where any woman can access abortion without fear of stigma.

In my quest to see zero unsafe abortions and zero stigma, young people play an important role. If we involve young people we will definitely get positive results.



Fighting abortion stigma in Africa

By Akosua Adubea Agyepong, Youth Council Member at the Planned Parenthood Association of Ghana

At a point in time I believed that in our society what is moral is cast in stone, that it was defined by the Bible, the Quran or by values crafted by long gone ancestors, centuries before my parents were born. But no, it is not so, morality is not predefined by certain set standards. It is constructed as and when it is convenient and beneficial to mankind.

So why do we make the woman’s body subject to morality, her autonomy dependent on society’s definition of good and the use of her body a topic pending public approval? Such antics do not realize some public good but only leave subjects such as ‘abortion’ at the mercy of the pathology of policy makers, stakeholders and lawmakers.

What came out strongly for me during the inroads African Regional meeting was the idea that seemed to echo across the region – that people perceived abortion as murder. This really is not news, but it is indeed worrisome; such perceptions do not prevent girls from having abortions, it just makes unsafe abortions a much convenient option. This is indeed the reality; thus, it is baffling that a community like ours that values unity, community, life, one another, would rather risk losing our women, our girls, to unsafe abortions than to lead the fight in championing easier access to safe ones.

All of these and more are the many battles we fight against abortion stigma. However, the inroads regional meeting did not only highlight the struggles we face in our different geographical contexts, but we discussed African solutions in the form of innovations to aid us in the battle against abortion stigma.

In my mind’s eye, I see an Africa where the dialogue on abortion is made open and free and abortion is demystified using a virtual platform to engage young people on the discourse of abortion, its pros, legalities and a host of others.

Where, the conversation in our homes is moved away from whether or not it is a sin to how best it can be made easily accessible to every woman who needs it. Where people like me who talk about abortion and refer to it as an option for unwanted pregnancies are not seen as the ones disintegrating the moral fiber of our communities but as heroines saving lives.

If we are unable to realize this type of Africa, we will continue to make unsafe abortions attractive and convenient for the young African girl, and she would keep on risking her life with quack doctors, cassava sticks, broken bottles mixed with coke etc. just to ensure that she isn’t shamed by society for asserting her sexual and reproductive health and rights.

If we value the lives of our girls, then let’s fight abortion stigma together.


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