Nepal’s project ‘Yuva Pahal’ will focus on building capacity and knowledge among medical students and healthcare providers as, despite liberalization of the law in 2002, abortion stigma remains high and women still struggle to access services and information

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.

nepal young woman 2

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.


Grants awarded to young IPPF volunteers!

We’re pleased to announce that young people at six IPPF Member Associations have recently been awarded small grants to carry out their own projects tackling abortion stigma. We will post updates from these projects from now until January 2018 but here is a quick introduction:

Guinea: Association Guinéenne pour le Bien-Etre Familial (AGBEF)

“A choice and not a crime”

Young people at AGBEF will gather personal testimonies of those affected by unplanned pregnancy and unsafe abortion and conduct public conversations and educational talks to start to break the silence on abortion. Women in respected positions in the community (such as politicians, NGO staff, lawyers and community leaders) will be recruited to act as mentors and supporters to young peer educators. Together, they will conduct visits to other key decision-makers in the community to begin to change the conversation on abortion rights and access.

Kenya: Family Health Options Kenya (FHOK)

“The silent loud”

At the Eldoret youth centre in Kenya, peer educators will create theatre and dance performances which focus on the topic of abortion and deliver them to groups of young people to provoke discussion and greater understanding. Social media will also be used as a platform to reach a wider group of young people with non-stigmatising messages about abortion. The project team will involve young people with disabilities and young men to ensure that a diverse section of the community is reached.

Nepal: Family Planning Association of Nepal (FPAN)

“Reducing abortion stigma among youth”

Young people at FPAN will work with marginalised groups of young people, particularly migrants, to increase understanding of the legal status of abortion and sexual and reproductive rights. They will use street drama to deliver information in an accessible way, as well as working with youth representatives from different political parties to advocate for better access to and understanding of abortion.

Puerto Rico: Profamilias

“Hablemos del aborto” // “Let’s talk about abortion”

The project seeks to correct common myths through the creation of short, appealing films about abortion. Young peer leaders from Profamilias will partner with law students to create the films, as well as a booklet on abortion which can be used for educational work and advocacy.

Venezuela: Associacion Civil de Planificacion Familiar (PLAFAM)

“Háblalo” // “Speak about it”

PLAFAM wants to open up discussion about abortion stigma in Venezuela, where the law is very restrictive. The ‘Háblalo’ multimedia project will create innovative messaging on abortion as it affects young people in the hopes of building a more favourable context for the future decriminalization of abortion in Venezuela.

Sierra Leone: Planned Parenthood Association of Sierra Leone (PPASL)

“Together we can stop it”

Young people at PPASL plan to develop evidence-based messages on abortion for dissemination through radio discussions, and community stakeholder meetings. They will also use drama and music, as well as social media, to directly target youth. The project will develop radio ‘jingles’ to specifically address abortion stigma and to reach out to young people to let them know their rights.


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.

Discussing abortion stigma at the International Conference on Family Planning

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.Priya and Shambhavi icfp

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!

Changing service providers’ attitudes about abortion in Nepal

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.

Focus group discussion at FPAN

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.

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