Macedonia’s project ‘It is about you’ will use grassroots activities and social media to raise awareness among young people of recent changes in the law which restrict access to abortion. It will focus on telling the personal stories of young women from different ethnic groups through videos, photos and a pocket book.

What I learned about fighting abortion stigma in Macedonia

by Monika Dragojlovic, H.E.R.A

What I learned from our ‘It’s About You’ project is that fighting against any kind of stigma is a very hard task . In Macedonia we have this controversial abortion law that has negative impact on our society. So from a political point of view, changing the law would be enough to change the whole situation. But is that really enough? Changing the law would be the ultimate goal in our long journey to do so. But we have a long way to go.

In order to bust the stigma it is necessary to change public opinion. Our idea was to bring people together to talk. And it was important to find people with different backgrounds. This turns out to be very difficult task. People in general don’t feel comfortable to talk about these kinds of questions. But we think this is an important step. Why? Because by talking they might affect other people’s perceptions of abortion, in a community they belong to by the media. And then at the end the law can be changed. By shooting short videos we can work to achieve this goal. Stigma works on many levels at once, so there is a lot of work to do.unsafe abortion.png

I learned that fighting against the system itself might not be the hardest part. Sure, the system is helping this process of stigmatizing abortion. We had this aggressive media campaign funded by the government, supporting pro-life views. Conservative values, lack of information and not having sex education seems like a winning combination for making pro-life views even more popular amongst people. So the hardest part is to change people’s mindset. Abortion is not murder but it is a human and legal

Finally, I learned that abortion stigma affects all of us. In order to improve our situation we must raise our voices and speak out loud, not only about abortion but about every other issue we think matters.



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.

Macedonian film about government-led anti-abortion campaign.

Young volunteers at H.E.R.A – the IPPF Member Association in Macedonia – have spoken out against a government-led media campaign stigmatising abortion.

Lina macedonia cropped
Lina, young volunteer at H.E.R.A

This short film, made as part of the ‘It is about you’ project features young female volunteers and activists speaking out about the right to accurate and non-stigmatising information on abortion.

(The film is in Macedonian with English subtitles)


Public support for safe and legal abortion in Macedonia

by Monika Dragojlovic, volunteer at H.E.R.A. in Macedonia

On the 28th of September, the global day of action for safe and legal abortion, H.E.R.A organized a national conference called “Legal restrictions to safe and legal abortion”. This event gathered all relevant stakeholders to discuss the new abortion law which was introduced by the Macedonian government two years ago. We used this opportunity to ask all participants to choose a message and to take a picture. Members of the national Parliament, such as is Radmila Shekerinska from the Green Party (pictured above) and Radmila Shekerinska from the Social Democrats, took photos and shared them on their Facebook profiles. The law professor Karolina Ristova-Aasterud from the Ss. Cyril and Methodius University in Skopje also posted a picture. (H.E.R.A. filed a request to challenge the law in Macedonia’s Constitutional Court, together with Prof. Aasterud). The photos attracted a lot of attention on social media as you can see below:

Prof.Aasterud: “my uterus, my decision” 411 likes and 29, 773 people reached.
L.Popovska: “abortion must be safe and legal” 5,173 people reached, 61 likes and 18 shares
L.Popovska: “abortion must be safe and legal”
5,173 people reached, 61 likes and 18 shares

As part of the project, a tweet-a-thon was also planned. More than 70 tweets were sent from the H.E.R.A twitter account, using the hashtags #abortion and #BustTheMyths. #Abortion was ‘hashtag of the day’ according the “Macedonia trending” twitter profile that generates most used hashtags and most popular twitter profiles.

“The decision about abortion is a personal decision, the stigma just makes it harder.”

We also shot pictures in the city park. We were expecting more young people at that time of day, but it turns out it was full of parents with young children. This was actually great for us, because we had photos with young parents and their babies which is literally showing that being pro-choice is not equal to anti-life, a common mis-understanding among people in Macedonia. We were explaining our project to everyone interested in the photo shoot and talked about why raising awareness about abortion and abortion stigma is important. There were of course people who did not want to participate, but the main reason was that they didn’t want to be in a photo, however they did not express their opinion about abortion. We also met celebrities in the city park, who participated in the photo shoot such as Ognen Janeski, a journalist in 24 News, Irena Ristic, an actress, and Ranko Bubamara, owner of the Bubamara Radio.

The new abortion law in Macedonia hurts women and girls

By Velimir Saveski, volunteer at H.E.R.A

Two years ago, the National Parliament in Macedonia adopted the Law on Termination of Pregnancy. The new abortion law discriminates against girls and women because of many restrictive aspects such as the submission of a written request, and mandatory pre-abortion counseling with a mandatory waiting period of three days after the counseling. In order to get an abortion, one must follow all of these steps. Also, the anti-abortion law is supported by an aggressive media campaign funded by the government. This is increasing the stigma and misinformation around abortion, which impacts both women who have had an abortion, as well as women and girls who have an unwanted pregnancy and are seeking abortion information and services. In addition, in Macedonia there is no comprehensive sexuality education in schools. Young people in the country do not have access to relevant and scientific-based information related to sexual and reproductive health and rights.

With a small grant received from IPPF, young volunteers at H.E.R.A are working on a project called ‘It is about you’. In order to improve the situation in our country, we want to raise awareness among young people about abortion stigma and how it affects girls and young women. We want to demonstrate that this issue affects all of us whatever our gender, religion, ethnicity, sexual identity, cultural background. Our main activity is creating videos where girls from different ethnic groups will talk about abortion stigma in their mother tongue. This will be supported by a teaser campaign and tweet-a-thon.

So far we have conducted a values clarification meeting with H.E.R.A.’s volunteers and other young women who will participate in the project with the support of an experienced staff member from H.E.R.A . The videos are in the initial stages of development, and we are preparing tweets for the tweet-a-thon to promote the release. We hope to engage a large number of people in our campaign, and help to reduce abortion stigma by talking about the reality of abortion, and dispelling the myths around abortion which are harmful to women and girls in Macedonia.

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