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youthagainstabortionstigma

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Ghana

Ghana’s ‘Peer2Peer’ project will use peer education to increase knowledge and change the attitudes of university students through radio programmes, one-on-one discussions and a wide social media campaign.

Discussing abortion at the Youth Action Movement minicamp in Ghana

By Enoch Weguri Kabange, Youth Action Movement (YAM) volunteer at the Planned Parenthood Association of Ghana

Created in 2005, the Youth Action Movement (YAM) is IPPF Africa Region’s participation network of young volunteers.

Every year, the YAM in Ghana brings its members together from the various branches across the country to do what they love to do best – champion sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR). A ‘minicamp’ is held to give young volunteers the opportunity to build healthy relationships with other YAM members from all over the country.

The 2017 edition like previous years was held at Cape Coast, Central region. The community where the outreach was held is a fishing community called Ampanyin. It was reported that teenage pregnancies were rampant in the community which comes with potential abortions, mostly unsafe and the associated stigmatization.

As of 1985, Ghanaian law permits abortion in certain cases but it was realized that only a very small number of women had knowledge of comprehensive abortion care and how to access it. This results in about 45% of abortions being unsafe which is alarming. YAM under the auspices of Planned Parenthood association of Ghana (PPAG) aims to drastically reduce this number.

Showing reproductive system

Due to the particular need for information, the outreach at the camp was centered on education though various services were rendered too. The participating YAM members didn’t want anybody left out of the education so they moved house to house and shop to shop doing one on one and small group discussions. In all the YAM members reached out to 260 people with 88 being male and 172 female. Some of the areas covered were teenage pregnancy, contraception, sexually transmitted infections and most especially comprehensive abortion care. This included education on the need for safe access to abortion and the myths surrounding abortion. It has been realized that myths are the leading cause of stigmatization therefore the dire need to make issues clear.

 

 

A nurse’s experience of abortion stigma

By Caesar Kaba Kogoziga, peer educator at Planned Parenthood Association of Ghana

In one of the hospitals where I had my clinical practice, a senior nurse in charge of family planning shared her story with me on abortion stigma.According to her, she had been a leader in her church for as long as five years and many of her church members sought advice from her in those days on matters of faith. Even though abortion contradicts her beliefs,that was her work in the hospital those days. She was in charge of counselling people and preparing them for abortion.

One day, the daughter of one of the senior pastors in her church came in for an abortion. According to her, she was surprised and confused but that was her job so she had to do it. She thought of informing the girl’s parents but that was against the ethics of her profession. So she did her work but in a disturbed state.

Days later, her own pastor invited her into his office and confronted her,asking her why she helped the lady go through a safe abortion. The parents of the girl were also present and expressed their disappointment in her action. Stating that she should have known better since she is one of the counsellors in the church and people look up to her. They demanded that the pastor punish her for what she did.

In church the following Sunday, the pastor announced that she had been suspended of her duties until further notice. An experienced nurse that did her job well and also functioned very well in church lost her role due to abortion stigma.

Her pastor spoke strongly against the nurse in his sermon in church. According to her, this incident made her question her position as a believer. She felt guilty and shameful especially in her relationship with her church members.

Months later, a 19 year old and a member of the church died. It was reported that the young lady died due to an illegal abortion.

“Reflecting on this, it occurred to me that the lady but for the condemnation of her pastor would have visited the hospital for a safe abortion. Coincidentally, the only near hospital was the one in which I worked.  Certainly, the young lady would not feel good seeking abortion from me again.” The nurse told me.

Abortion stigma has taken another life.
This story among others was the reason I decided to join the fight against abortion stigma.

 

Sharing the Peer2Peer project with the Youth Action Movement in Africa

by Akosua Agyepong, volunteer and council member at the Planned Parenthood Association of Ghana and National Treasurer of the Youth Action Movement – Ghana

Ghana’s law on abortion is considered one of the most progressive in Africa. However, statistics have shown that the number of unsafe abortions is increasing at an alarming rate mainly because of the stigma surrounding abortions. This was one of the staunch reasons why the Youth Action Movement in Ghana designed and implemented the Peer2Peer project, which was aimed at tackling abortion related stigma on the University of Ghana campus.

At the IPPF Africa Region Youth Forum, I had quite a discussion with the participants and delegates present, on the Peer2Peer project. I explained the law on abortion in Ghana and they were shocked at the fact that despite the liberal nature of the law, women and girls still opted for unsafe abortions. However, I elaborated furthermore that in the Ghanaian society abortion and conversations surrounding it are regarded as taboos. As such it made it difficult for the laws to function effectively.

I illustrated the need for the project, how it was done, our successes and the challenges we faced. Peer education and social media (Facebook, Twitter, Whatsapp, YouTube) were the most powerful means of reaching the students of the University of Ghana with the information on Comprehensive Abortion Care (CAC), as well as the law on abortion. Both means as well as the use of traditional media (T.V and radio) led us to reaching over 2000 people. At the end of the project, through a survey, we gathered that knowledge on safe abortion and the law had increased which in turn led to an increase in the number of people who said that they would not stigmatize individuals who have had abortions.

I shared my personal challenges with the Youth Forum. The name-calling and stigmatization that I personally went through for implementing this project wasn’t at all easy. Participants were curious to know how I dealt with such frustrations during and after the project. The answer to that was simple; “Was the name-calling worth it? Well, yes it was! Because, in the end I would have saved one more girl from an unsafe abortion that could have cost her her life. As long as it’s worth it, I’m cool with it.”

The Youth Forum gave me an amazing opportunity to share this success story and I am ready and willing to share it anywhere at anytime. Over and over until all abortions are kept safe and legal!

Have a look at Akosua’s presentation on the project here.

Check out our youth-led projects in Ghana, Palestine, Spain, Macedonia and Nepal

In 2015, young people in IPPF Member Associations were asked to create projects which would tackle the issue of abortion stigma in their communities. Small grants were awarded to promising projects submitted by young people in Ghana, Palestine, Spain, Macedonia and Nepal. Read this for more information about what these projects set out to do, their methods and the results.

Where do young people in Ghana get information about abortion?

In this short video, two volunteers from the Peer2Peer project at the University of Ghana discuss young people’s access to reliable information on their sexual and reproductive health.

Peer2Peer volunteer Dorcas explains that students “trust their friends to the highest level”, but that these friends may not have the correct information.

The Peer2Peer project works to ensure that these students have peers they can talk to and trust who have been trained to deliver accurate information and referrals.

“I consider myself lucky to be alive”: a story of unsafe abortion in Ghana

by a student at the University of Ghana

It was cold but painfully, I dragged myself out of bed, peeped out of my window and saw that it was still dawn, the realisation that the day will break soon made me panic.  I took my seventh pregnancy test, yes, my seventh. I couldn’t accept that I was pregnant so I kept running the test over and over. With my eyes closed while I murmured a prayer, I was hoping it would read negative.

Alas, my deepest fear was confirmed, I was pregnant. Who could I talk to? Certainly not my parents.  I kept scrolling through my contact list looking for someone to talk to. I just broke down and cried profusely.

Exams were just three weeks away, my mum would not accept me being pregnant. I felt dejected. Dawn gradually gave way to morning and yet there was no array of hope in who to confide in. Hours later I remembered a former roommate who had passed comments and jests about knowing where to get abortion services from.

I searched frantically for her contact and put a call through. After nervously exchanging pleasantries, I still could not bring myself to tell her my predicament so I hung up. A week later I started feeling uneasy, could hardly concentrate in class and got unnecessarily moody. All that while I was surfing the internet for drugs I could use to terminate the pregnancy.

I came across many sites giving options but most were foreign sites, and I didn’t have the patience to wait to have them delivered. Working up some courage I called my former roommate again and informed her of my situation. We arranged a meeting the next day, by 5am we were on our way to this “doctor” friend of hers. At exactly 6:15am we were in his not so welcoming office-cum-procedure room where instruments were in glaring view and just a thin piece of cloth divided both rooms. Apparently my friend had already discussed the issue with him. He made no delay as he immediately asked me to go to the “procedure room”.

In short, it was a horrifying experience, with no counselling whatsoever to prepare me psychologically or even explain what would happen. There was not even a place to rest as the space was taken up by so many girls waiting for their turn.

As we descended the stairs, I was in pain, with a lot of questions running through my mind: how many girls had been there before me? Were the instruments sterilized? Was he a professional? Will everything be OK? Unfortunately, even before reaching my hostel, I was bleeding profusely and felt dizzy, accompanied with excruciating pain. Out of fear, my friend took me to her home instead of hospital where I gulped down several painkillers but it only got worse. The next thing I knew, I woke up at a hospital having passed out.

I had lost a lot of blood and was admitted for a week to recover – if I had been brought later I could have died. I couldn’t prepare adequately for exams and the ordeal I went through affected me psychologically so that I had to spend extra time to go through counselling.

Two years later, I am now 20 and have seen the Peer2Peer project being rolled out on campus. I am extremely excited because this is knowledge at the doorstep of young people and will save a lot of people from ignorance. If I was privileged to have known more about abortion I wouldn’t have gone through what I went through. I hope young people will be enlightened and make more informed decisions than resorting to hearsay and the services of unprofessional persons. Kudos to the Peer2Peer team and all who have worked in bringing this to fruition. To young people out there, especially those who experience unplanned pregnancy, I advise you to seek professional and trusted information and services like those provided by the Planned Parenthood Association of Ghana.

 

Addressing Abortion Stigma from the Grassroots

By Elorm Kwasi Adawudu and Wise Alorvi, Planned Parenthood Association of Ghana

Growing up as a young child, I did not have the privilege of discussing issues about sex with my parents probably because they thought discussing such issues would make me irresponsible. I had to rely on my school mates to pick up snippets of information about my sexual health. Looking back, I wonder what I would have done if my friends provided me with the wrong information.

I am sure many young people in Ghana and other developing countries relate to my story. Whereas some might be fortunate to receive some information on how to lead healthy sexual lives, the message is basically centered around abstinence and less focused on protection, and often mute on available options. We are taught to “say no” but not aware of what to say “yes” to. This makes young people rely on their peers for information on their reproductive health. However, we need to ask if the information young people receive from their peers is accurate, enough or even timely; especially on more sensitive topics such as abortion, which is considered a taboo topic in many circles.

ghana youth interviews
Youth volunteers deliver outreach at the University

The knowledge gap in communicating on sexual and reproductive health issues puts young women at the risk of getting pregnant in their teens. Since we live in a society where young mothers are stigmatized, it is common for these girls to end their pregnancies by having an abortion. These young women count on their peers to assist them or rely on their own naïve experiments in trying to get rid of their pregnancies, which they mostly attempt through unsafe means.

Considering the fact that young people play a key role in addressing the information needs of their peers and influencing their decisions, young volunteers of the Planned Parenthood Association of Ghana have come together with a project titled #Peer2Peer to reach students in the University of Ghana with the right information on safe comprehensive abortion and family planning services. The project seeks to ensure that at least 4,100 students out of the target audience would have improved knowledge of the liberal legal provisions of safe abortion as well as being well informed to make choices about contraception.

As we roll out this critical project we hope to keep you posted on some exciting stories from the field.

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