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.
By Shambhavi Poudel, chairperson IPPF South Asia Regional Youth Network
The International Conference on Family Planning (ICFP) started with a youth pre-conference delivering a message that young people were very much at the center of the conference. It was overwhelming to see 280 youth advocates from all around the world gathered in a room to talk about family planning and take this momentum further.
One issue talked about at the conference was abortion – laws and regulations, access and stigma. I attended various sessions on this topic. I learned about how peer education was being used in various countries to tackle abortion stigma. Since we at IPPF also use the peer education model it was great to hear of new and effective ways to use peer educators to increase both awareness and access. A presentation by Ipas highlighted the importance of young people in reducing abortion related stigma and increasing abortion services. Another interesting session was on faith and abortion. There was a discussion on how religion is used to create abortion stigma and to restrict women’s access to sexual and reproductive health services and how we as advocates can tackle those stigmas and the impact they have on women’s health and lives in all parts of the world.
In Nepal, where I am from, there are an estimated 3 million unwanted pregnancies each year but abortion stigma proves to be a major barrier to accessing abortion services. During the ICFP 2016, I not only met likeminded advocates but also heard of innovative ways to tackle abortion stigma from them. This conference has added greatly to my learning curve. It will benefit the work I do as a youth advocate on fighting abortion stigma and increasing access to abortion services.
I also had the opportunity to be a part of the tent organized by the Inter-Agency Working Group on Reproductive Health in Crisis. In a real family tent, we tried to show the problems that young girls and women face during crisis situations through role plays. We tried to highlight the need of abortion in those settings where there are a high number of unwanted pregnancies, physical violence and rape.
ICFP was a great platform where we could talk about abortion, advocate for it and make changes happen!
By Shambhavi Poudel, volunteer at Family Planning Association of Nepal (FPAN)
“It is important for the family to know if a woman has had an abortion. They will then be able to take better care of her at home. Privacy doesn’t come before a patient’s health to me” A doctor speaking at an FPAN focus group
The attitudes of service providers, and concerns about confidentiality/privacy are the major reasons why women in Nepal opt for unsafe abortions. Our project, ‘Yuwa Pahal’, was set up by youth volunteers at FPAN to contribute to the easy accessibility of youth friendly comprehensive abortion care. ‘Yuwa Pahal’ focuses on building capacity among medical students and healthcare providers on safe abortion care, stigma, abortion laws, post abortion care, youth friendly services and related issues.
Abortion was legalized in Nepal in 2002 after the very long and tireless effort of a group of civil society organizations, led by FPAN. The law of Nepal allows abortion up to 12 weeks at the request of the pregnant women, and after this in certain circumstances. However, women are still accessing unsafe abortions, due to a lack of knowledge about their rights under the law, and due to the barrier of stigma and discrimination.
The first activity of our project was a focus group discussion with eight service providers from different medical institutions. There were two major learnings from this activity. First, the service providers were only taught how to perform an abortion and nothing more. Many of them knew it was legal but weren’t aware of the conditions in which it was permitted. Second, they had a very negative attitude towards young unmarried women seeking abortion, with little respect for their privacy.
The ‘Yuwa Pahal’ team plans to have a training session with 30 service providers to ensure that they better understand the barriers to abortion, and most importantly that they recognize that abortion is a fundamental right of every woman, and that every women seeking abortion should be treated with dignity and respect regardless of her marital status.
I believe that if we lived in a society that valued women’s autonomy, abortion would be just as acceptable as childbirth.