March 2018

Project ‘Háblalo’ (‘talk about it’) in Venezuela

By Vanessa Blanco, youth volunteer at PLAFAM (Asociación Civil de Planificación Familiar)

Leading this project on the de-stigmatization of abortion was a great challenge for me and for all the participants since it is the first time that my organization, PLAFAM, has delivered a project specifically referring to abortion stigma. We therefore started with a training on abortion and abortion stigma, which gave us all the capabilities we needed to share information in our community.

We made four short videos to be shared on the PLAFAM website that gathered the stories of three women who had gone through abortions in their lives, from a perspective in which all are healthy and the only problem they have faced is the social stigma surrounding abortion. The final video was informative, with figures and testimonies concerning abortion.

In addition, we had the opportunity to be present in two shopping centres to publicly discuss the issue, generating discussions with the general public, where people were interested in having information about abortion since it is a taboo subject which is rarely spoken about. Elderly gentlemen, adults and young people could clarify their doubts and questions regarding this issue and we could raise awareness about the problems in Venezuela caused by the legal restriction of abortion. This results in the death of many women each year. At first, people were concerned, and even annoyed, but once they were given clear and concise information they changed their reactions. I was able to talk with them and exchange views, many of them had never heard of the subject and they thought of abortion as something that did not happen here. It is very worrying that there is no information about abortion in one of the countries with the largest unwanted pregnancy rates in South America.


Finally, I delivered a talk in a public square in my community, inviting my acquaintances and friends to talk about the stigma of abortion, comparing world figures and visualizing the problems that exist regarding education about sexual and reproductive health. Thanks to the support of PLAFAM, I was able to bring brochures and condoms for everyone, as well as talk about the importance of using condoms for protection.

This was a great opportunity to start working on the issue of abortion stigma, the people who attended were satisfied with the information and some of them even joined us as community peer educators.


Community support for the ‘Stop Abortion Stigma’ project in Sierra Leone

By Safiatu Kabia, Volunteer Peer Educator, Planned Parenthood Association of Sierra Leone

The right to access sexuality education and sexual and reproductive health services as women and girls in my community is a big problem. The authorities of our beloved community Bandajuma Town are not in support of these services due to their religious values or traditional beliefs. I am your daughter, with all due respect, I am saying this because the women and girls of this community are missing out on opportunities as a result of our low participation in sexual and reproductive health education.

I was fortunate to be trained as a volunteer peer educator, to implement the Stop Abortion Stigma project in my community. Abortion is only legal in rare circumstances in Sierra Leone. This legal restriction and the religious values of the community makes it difficult to reach young people in schools and communities to raise awareness. As a result, young women and girls were being stigmatized without anyone even considering the circumstances for which they have decided to have an abortion. Some girls had to relocate elsewhere, after being involved in abortion, because of the perverse stigma.
However, PPASL (The Planned Parenthood Association of Sierra Leone) is here again with another opportunity for us. They are here to provide us with vital information on abortion and its related complications and to stop stigmatization of our sisters who may have experienced abortion.

Information is power and we need it, so that we are better informed to exercise our rights and make appropriate choices.

I am appealing to the conscience of my parents and community authorities to please accept this project, and give your maximum support. This is about us young people and our future. Therefore, it should not be down played. I have respect for our traditions and religious values, but let us modify them a bit in the interest of your own children and future leaders.

The issue this project is seeking to address is a serious ethical matter. However, let us emulate the Kantian ethical principle of “For the common good”. Therefore, decisions taken on behalf of women and girls, should be for the common good of this generation.
I received support from stakeholders to carry out sensitization on safe abortion in schools and communities. Other young people joined me, to plan and present short skits during community engagements on abortion.

I am grateful that the Stop Abortion Stigma project has transformed my community.

Breaking the silence on abortion stigma in Kenya

By Margaret Nyajima, young volunteer at Family Health Options Kenya (FHOK)

I come from a society where women don’t have a choice to decide about their body, where natural occurrences like monthly periods are associated with shame. In my community morality is held in high esteem, discussion about sex is almost a taboo and a prohibited topic in the open especially if you are a young person and not yet married. This, coupled with lack of knowledge and accessibility of contraception (which is viewed as an encouragement for young people to engage is premature sex) exposes the youth to cases of unplanned pregnancies.

In my community, cultural values and beliefs are the pillar of which decisions are made including those related to pregnancy, therefore termination of pregnancy is seen as unacceptable, sinful and an evil act no matter the circumstance. This has worked toward promoting silence, secrecy and the fear of open discussion on subjects such as abortion and contraception yet so many women are going to access the services in secret, from the backstreet quacks, in order to avoid being stigmatized and labelled by society.

Just like any other woman growing up surrounded by the sense of fear instilled by the society about women or girls accessing abortion services, I developed fear and negative perceptions founded on cultural beliefs, myths and misconceptions. The fear of a bad omen and the imagination of pain felt during the procedure, discrimination, barrenness, excommunication from the church and even possible maternal death, not to mention a lifelong curse, constantly kept ringing in my mind.

It wasn’t until I attended an abortion value clarification capacity building organized by Family Health Options Kenya in (Eldoret) that I came to understand how significant stigma poses a barrier to women when it comes to accessing safe abortion services. The training also broadened my understanding that access to safe abortion is a reproductive right, this helped clarify my personal values about pregnancy options and to look into my attitude and enhance my understanding that when access to safe and legal abortion is limited, many women with unintended pregnancies resort to unsafe abortions.

In conclusion, all pregnancies should be clearly desired at the time of conception and therefore, the public should be educated on the major social and public health conflicts of unintended pregnancy and the effects of stigma when it comes to abortion. Women should also be allowed to make a choice and decisions about their body, improve their knowledge on contraception, unintended pregnancies and have improved access to reproductive health and rights services.

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