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A Woman’s Right to Life

By Caesar Kaba Kogoziga , Planned Parenthood Association of Ghana

There is big a difference between advocating for women’s abortion rights and promoting abortions. In most countries, women’s right to safe abortion services is not yet respected. Mostly, abortion issues are subjected to religious, social and cultural stigma instead of subjectively discussing the realities our women face.

One thing the world must know is that everyone is not of the same religion and culture, but we cannot allow our cultures to interfere with human rights. People who are against abortion often forget to consider the right of the woman to life and her freedom to decide. The reality is that if we are dedicated to empowering women, then they must have the right and power to decide if and when to give birth. Unfortunately, no form of contraception is 100% successful, this means that access to safe abortion must be a priority in every country that understands the importance of reproductive health on the health of its population.

Abortion stigma will not scare people away from having sex for pleasure, it will only succeed in driving them to unsafe abortions with several complications including death. We must fight against misconceptions of abortion to save the lives of our girls and women. According to a study by WHO and the Guttmacher Institute published on the 28th of September 2017, Worldwide, 25 million unsafe abortions occur every year.

“When women and girls cannot access effective contraception and safe abortion services, there are serious consequences for their own health and that of their families. This should not happen. But despite recent advances in technology and evidence, too many unsafe abortions still occur, and too many women continue to suffer and die.” -Dr Bela Ganatra of the WHO.

Abortion stigma is a major cause of the high numbers of unsafe abortions around the world. Anyone who understands and supports contraceptives use cannot run away from safe abortion

Sex for pleasure is inevitable, unplanned pregnancies may be unavoidable, but deaths through unsafe abortions can be prevented by giving our women stigma free abortion services.

The next time you stigmatize abortion and judge people who opt out of pregnancy, remember all the adults that abortion stigma has killed.

 

*Image Copyright: IPPF/Caroline Penn

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A Young Leaders’ Workshop on the Consequences of Abortion Stigma

by Robert Désiré Doualamou, youth volunteer at AGBEF (Association Guinéenne pour le Bien-Etre Familial)

Abortion today is a rather delicate subject in most African countries, people do not speak much about it and the subject has become almost taboo in many African societies. Abortion can be defined as the voluntary termination of a pregnancy.

Many teenage girls have to seek abortions outside of the law, because of abortion-related stigma. To avoid being stigmatized and discriminated against in their communities, these girls who are find themselves in unplanned pregnancies practice unsafe abortion, which, of course, has detrimental consequences on their sexual and biological health and can even lead to death

In view of all this, as part of the “Choice, not crime, voice and action to save” project, the AGBEF Youth Action Movement organized orientation workshops for young leaders and mentors on the theme: ‘the consequences of abortion-related stigma’.

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Group work sessions were conducted during the training period in order to better assimilate the different themes that were discussed relating to abortion and socio-cultural values.

The main goal of this workshop was to make the population aware of the various stigma-related issues, and the repercussions that this can have on young people, especially young girls, through educational talks, awareness-raising sessions as well as door-to-door activities taking place in the different communes of Conakry, in Guinea.

At the end of this workshop, commitments were made by the participants to raise awareness about the consequences of stigma related to abortion, but these sensitizations are much emphasized on the factors that cause unwanted pregnancies. Because we cannot talk about abortion without pregnancy, so one of the key themes of awareness will be unwanted pregnancies. The mentors who took part in the training are responsible for supporting the young leaders in this fight.

 

 

Abortion in Syria

By Maya Mahmoud, young volunteer at the Syrian Family Planning Association

Like in most other countries, abortion in Syria is a subject of controversy. Some stand with the person’s right to decide whether he/she is ready to become a parent or not, and that no one must be obligated to go through an unwanted pregnancy, while others believe that no one has the right to terminate a potential life, no matter what the situation is.

In Syria, having children is seen as essential in every marriage, in fact, there is a Syrian saying that says “each baby that comes, with it comes its wealth.”

There is also a high number of child marriages and a lack of awareness regarding family planning, which means that most families consist of several children.

Syria is a religious country in general and people often understand abortion to be prohibited by their religion. The stigma that follows any woman who has an abortion exposes her to a variety of stigmatizing attitudes and limits her access to good medical and social care for abortion. It also shames her because in many cases abortion is related with women who get pregnant out of rape or an affair out of wedlock.  Women who choose to opt out of pregnancy are often given many negative labels, such as sinners, as well as a bad person or even a bad mother if she has children.

In the Syrian law, abortion is almost completely illegal unless done to save a woman’s life however, due to the ongoing war in Syria, many people now seek abortion. The reasons are many, including low wages, the very expensive life costs due to the economic crisis. Additionally, many people lost their homes and have extra costs now since they have had to rent new houses elsewhere, so plenty of people can’t afford the expenses of an extra child.

Another major issue is the discrimination and inequality between boys and girls, which makes the news “you’re having a baby girl” very sad and shameful for a lot of people. In some cases it could get them to abort because they don’t want a girl, thinking that a girl only brings shame and extra expenses on the family. Some husbands even ask their wives to undergo dangerous procedures to abort since it isn’t legal and finding a doctor who will perform the procedure is very difficult. Many of these procedures end up with harming the woman’s health and threatening her life.

The Syrian law sentences any woman who aborts to prison for a time that ranges between six months to three years, whether she had taken an abortion medication or if it was done by another person (for example a doctor) with her consent. A person who provides a woman with an abortion or helps her do it with her consent receives a sentence of between a year to three years in prison. If the abortion causes the death of the woman he/she gets four to seven years of hard labor, and five to ten years if he/she used other procedures that the woman didn’t consent to, and if that person who carried out the procedure was a doctor or a pharmacist, the penalty is increased by a third to a double and all fines are doubled along with a ban from practicing their job.

Mostly, the government’s supervision over medicine is insignificant and there are ways to obtain pills for abortion. Many pharmacies sell them without a prescription and similarly, many doctors conduct abortion under the cover of names of other procedures. According to the way things take place, technically no one goes to prison unless the husband or someone files a lawsuit against the wife or doctor.

Personally, I believe that being a parent is a responsibility that demands a person who is psychologically, emotionally, and financially ready to raise a healthy emotionally-stable child. Thus, all people should have the right to decide for themselves whether they are ready to have a child or not. An unwanted child could suffer from many issues as he/she grows up, with the absence of social services or governmental supervision on families and children along with the absence of financial aid in. No child deserves that. People should asses their situation and have the right and access to end a pregnancy when they see fit.

We, the youth, always seek to achieve gender equality, empower women, raise awareness on family planning, and aim for a better future.

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 source: the Syrian Penal Code. Subject 247, 527, 528, 532.

 

Young Champions at the crossroads of innovative ideas // LES JEUNES CHAMPIONS AU CARREFOUR DES IDEES NOVATRICES

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By Kader Avonnon, Youth Champion at Association Béninoise pour la Promotion de la Famille, Benin

The second world inroad Global Gathering was held from 12 to 16 March 2018 in Zagreb, Croatia. This great world-wide event has brought together activists from around the world, including Africa, Europe and Asia, North America and Latin America, who are campaigning against abortion stigma.

The objectives of this meeting were to bring together various actors from all over the world who are working to reduce the stigma associated with abortion, and to analyze the global and regional challenges that countries face in implementing their daily actions.

This meeting was full of rich discussions, sharing experiences and good practices through several innovative exercises and activities. One of the flagship activities was the Exchange Festival that allowed representatives from countries and organizations around the world to share with each other the work they do in their country, the tools and materials they use as well as the strategies they use to talk about abortion in their country. At this activity, the young champions of the Packard Project represented IPPF by presenting the tools developed by IPPF on abortion and the work it does with young people in Benin, Burkina-Faso and Ghana on the fight against stigma linked to Abortion.

The young champions also participated in the media workshops and panel discussions. Our young champion Kader Avonnon was participated in a press conference simulation on abortion rights. The young champions also led a discussion session that focused on the importance of youth participation at inroads in the fight against the stigma of abortion. Some key recommendations were made at the end of this session in particular; to aim for 20% participation of young people (18-24) in the next inroads Global Gathering; to hold a youth pre-conference before the global gathering; and to increase representation of organizing committee of the inroads meeting; and lastly, to increase the network of Inroads members to 18-24 year olds.

It must be remembered that the inroads Global Gathering is the largest international meeting to date, providing an adequate forum for exchange among different actors around the world who advocate for the reduction of the stigma attached to abortion. The participation of the young champions at this meeting was an experience for them that inspired and sharpened their interest in their work on abortion. Therefore, they are better equipped to encourage the involvement of their peers at the local and international level and to pass on the gains made to them.

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La deuxième rencontre mondiale d’Inroads s’est tenue du 12 au 16 Mars 2018 à Zagreb en Croatie. Cette grande randonnée de portée mondiale, à réunie des activistes venus du monde entier notamment  de l’Afrique de l’Europe et de l’Asie, de l’Amérique du Nord et de l’Amérique Latine militant pour la lutte contre la stigmatisation liée à l’avortement.

Les objectifs de cette rencontre sont de réunir les différents acteurs venus du monde entier  qui travaillent pour la réduction de la stigmatisation lié à l’avortement. Analyser les défis mondiaux et régionaux que rencontrent les pays dans la mise en œuvre de leurs actions quotidiennes.

Cette rencontre a été riche en partage d’expériences et de bonnes pratiques à travers plusieurs exercices  et activités novatrices. L’une des activités phare a été le festival d’échange qui a permis aux représentant des pays et organisations du monde entier de partager avec les autres le travail qu’ils font dans leur pays, les outils et matériels qu’ils utilisent et même les stratégies qu’ils utilisent pour parler de l’avortement dans leur pays. Ainsi les jeunes champions du projet Packard ont représenter l’IPPF en présentant les outils élaborés par l’IPPF sur l’avortement et le travail qu’elle fait avec les jeunes au Bénin, au Burkina-Faso et au Ghana sur la lutte contre la stigmatisation liée à l’avortement.

Les jeunes champions ont aussi participé aux sessions sur les médias,  les panels de discussion de haut niveau et aux panels parallèles. Sur ce fait le jeune Champion Kader Avonnon a été panéliste dans le panel de haut niveau consacré à l’interview des journalistes telle une conférence de presse.

Les jeunes champions ont aussi conduit une session de discussion qui a portée sur l’implication des jeunes au sein d’Inroads dans la lutte contre la stigmatisation de l’avortement. Quelques recommandations phares ont été faites à l’issue de cette session notamment ; faire participer à hauteur de 20% les jeunes (18-24ans) lors des prochaines rencontres mondiales d’Inroads ; tenir désormais une pré-conférence des jeunes avant la réunion mondiale d’Inroads ; veuillez à la représentativité d’un jeune dans le comité d’organisation de la réunion d’Inroads. Accroitre le réseau des membres d’Inroads aux jeunes de 18- 24ans.

Il faut retenir que la rencontre mondiale d’Inroads est la plus grande réunion internationale à ce jour qui offre un cadre adéquat d’échange aux différents acteurs du monde entier qui militent pour la réduction de la stigmatisation liée à l’avortement. La participation des jeunes champions  à cette rencontre a été pour eux une expérience qui a galvanisé et aiguisé leur intérêt pour leur travail sur l’avortement. Aussi sont-ils mieux outiller pour susciter l’implication de leurs pairs au niveau local et international et faire répercuter les acquis sur eux.

        Kader AVONNON

        Jeune Champion/IPPF

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Photo Courtesy inroads, 2018. Photographer, Jenni Kotting.

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.

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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.

Sensitization on abortion stigma in my community, Njai Town, Sierra Leone

By Alimatu Harding, youth volunteer at Planned Parenthood Association of Sierra Leone

Joining the Stop Abortion Stigma project has helped me grow more confident than ever! Having been in the project for the last five months, I have learnt something about myself that I never knew.

I’m Alimatu Harding; working with the Stop Abortion Stigma project in Sierra Leone. It was an eye opener to me and other young people in this community. Having been with the project for five months, I have realized something about myself that I never knew before. I am more confident and assertive in addressing abortion and other related stigma in my community. My engagements in the project have further improved my social interaction and behaviour. Before this time, I found it difficult to engage people on issues relating to abortion.

The abortion project transformed my life. This was as a result of the training we received at the commencement of the project. I was part of the sensitization in schools and communities. This project has empowered me to talk about issues relating to abortion.

Abortion was viewed as an evil practice in my community, and if a woman ends a pregnancy intentionally, people thought that she will lose the chance to conceive in future.  Despite these numerous challenges based on religious values and traditional beliefs that were deeply rooted in my community, the intervention of the project brought positive transformation.

During the implementation of the project I engaged young women and girls on issues of abortion stigma and how we could work together to stop it. The project has helped me to interact with fellow young women and girls in the Njai Town community.

My involvement on a radio panel discussion, to talk to my peers and gather their contributions through text messages and phone calls was a remarkable experience.

Although abortion is legally restricted in Sierra Leone, the community stakeholders supported this project because they want to save our lives as their daughters and wives. Above all we ask that they recognize our sexual reproductive rights and stop stigmatizing us.

Reducing abortion stigma in Palpa, Nepal

By Sunil Karki, youth volunteer at the Family Planning Association of Nepal (FPAN)

Every generation of today is familiar with this word abortion. Some take it in a positive way whereas some take it negatively. Most people from developed countries are more open to abortion but in Nepal, especially in under-developed places or rural areas this is kept a confidential topic – it is very difficult to accept the word ‘abortion’. So our FPAN Palpa branch members took this initiative on abortion stigma and made a successful project.

On 25th September 2017 we, the active members of FPAN Palpa, with Bangsha Gopal youth club, made this project a huge success. Teenagers, youths, as well as their parents, were involved in this programme. It was a great privilege to see their active participation and involvement beyond our expectation. Almost everybody spoke and gave their views and perceptions on this topic without any hesitation. There were many sessions such as sexuality and reproductive health, contraceptive devices, safe and unsafe abortion, ways and types of abortion and so on.

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Many female participants talked about the experiences they had gone through and the circumstances they had to face during abortion. They knew that unsafe abortion may lead to the death of the woman, or cause mental health problems, but still feared opening up to society. Our great achievement was to start a change in people’s education and thinking. After the project they developed a bit of guts and a new way of thinking. This project was a small approach to change the way people think about abortion. This was not so easy – some of them had an argument on this too because accepting this challenge in such a rural area is not so easy, but after a long discussion we were successful.

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