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.



We should all be concerned by abortion stigma //La stigmatisation liée à  l’avortement: Tous concernés

By Oumar Tao, Youth Champion at ABBEF, Burkina Faso // Par Oumar Tao, Jeune Champion à l’ABBEF, Burkina Faso 

Abortion stigma exists in almost every country in the world. Indeed, several layers of society are affected by this stigma, contrary to the belief that only those who have had abortions are victims of stigmatization. Indeed, health workers responsible for this necessary services are also victims of stigmatization. At the African meeting of INROADS members, a health worker gave his testimony in these words:

“I am a churchman, a man of God, every Sunday I go to church. After going to church I usually invited my friends to eat and drink. One day I explained my work to a friend from church and he said to me that it is not good what I do, that the Lord does not endorse these practices. After church I invited my friends over and he refused to come and he told others not to come because I’m paying for the guests with money from abortion. That day I felt stigmatized and I realized how stigmatized the victims of abortion were. “

It should be noted that this is a testimony of a health worker.

Thereafter, a woman who educated the community gave her testimony:

“Every two to three days we raise awareness in the villages about abortion and the stigma associated with abortion. One day we were in a village for sensitization and when we finished, we took the road to the house. On the road, a group of young people joined us and asked us if we are the “abortionists” with a violent tone, we answered: we are not abortionists but we are raising awareness for better access to information for all on abortion. They told us to leave and never return to the village for these kinds of sensitizations. That day I felt stigmatized, I was even afraid for my life.”

These testimonials show us how all those involved in abortion are concerned by the stigmatization in their community or in their place of work. Several organizations like ABBEF work day and night to eradicate this stigma in the world. I remain confident that through our programmes to target abortion stigma, with the support of everyone we will make it.

La stigmatisation sur l’avortement existe dans presque tous les pays du monde. En effet, plusieurs couches de la société sont touchées par cette stigmatisation contrairement aux pensées selon laquelle seules les personnes ayants avorté sont victimes de stigmatisation. En effet, les agents de santé responsable des interruptions nécessaires de grossesses sont aussi victimes de stigmatisation. Lors de la rencontre africaine des membres d’INROADS un agent de santé a rendu son témoignage en ces termes : 

« Je suis un homme d’église, un homme de Dieu, chaque dimanche je me rends à l’église. Apres l’église j’ai pour habitude d’invité mes amis à manger et à boire. Un jour j’ai expliqué a un ami de l’église mon travail et il m’a juste dit que ce n’est pas bien ce que je fais, que le seigneur ne cautionne pas ces pratiques. Apres l’église j’ai invité mes amis et il a refusé de venir et il dit aux autres de ne pas venir car je suis en train de les invités avec l’argent de l’avortement. Ce jour je me suis senti stigmatiser et j’ai compris à quel point les personnes victimes d’avortement souffraient de la stigmatisation. »  

Il faut noter que ceci est un témoignage d’un agent de santé.  

Par la suite une femme qui sensibilise la communauté a rendu son témoignage : 

 « Chaque deux à trois jours nous sensibilisons dans les villages sur l’avortement et la stigmatisation liée à l’avortement. Un jour nous étions dans un village pour des sensibilisations et quand nous avons finis, nous avons pris la route pour la maison. En effet, sur la route, un groupe de jeunes nous rejoignit et nous demandas si nous sommes ‘’les avorteurs’’ avec un ton violent, nous répondîmes à travers ces mots : nous ne sommes pas des avorteurs mais nous sensibilisons pour un meilleur accès à l’information pour tous sur l’avortement. Ils nous ont dit de partir et de ne plus jamais revenir dans le village pour ces genres de sensibilisations. Ce jour je me suis sentis stigmatiser juste par-ce-que je faisais des sensibilisations, j’ai eu même peur pour ma vie ».  

Ces témoignages nous montrent à quel point tous les acteurs de l’avortement sont concernés par la stigmatisation que ce soit dans leur communauté ou dans leur lieu de travail. Plusieurs organisations à l’instar de l’ABBEF travaillent jours et nuit afin d’éradiqué cette stigmatisation dans le monde. Je reste confiant que travers les programmes pour cibler les stigmatisation liées l’avortement , avec l’implication de tous on y arrivera.

Abortion advocacy training in Zambia – Billy

In March and June, 30 young volunteers at the Planned Parenthood Association of Zambia were trained on abortion advocacy. Here, one young person reflects on what he learned:

“Abortion is a matter that really needs attention in our day to day matters. To start with I would say abortion is the termination of a pregnancy. In the past two day workshop I realized and learnt things that I never knew were in existence like the Termination of Pregnancy Act of 1972. The law says that abortion is permitted to save the life of the pregnant woman, to preserve her physical or mental health, in the case of fetal impairment and for economic or social reasons.

I would also like to state that regardless of people being modernized they still practice unsafe abortions. One unsafe practice that left me in a state that was unpleasant is where a person crushes bottles and takes them without realizing she is endangering her life. Having heard this I came to the conclusion that most people regardless of their class or profession need to be sensitized about abortion to reduce the number of unsafe abortions and encourage legal safe abortions that will be done in hospitals by trained doctors.”

Billy Banda, young peer educator in Lusaka

Lusaka during Group Exercise on SRHR Policies and the Law (2)
Training participants in Lusaka discuss abortion law

Abortion advocacy training in Zambia – Mwape

In March and June, 30 young volunteers at the Planned Parenthood Association of Zambia were trained on abortion advocacy. Here, one young person reflects on what she learned:

Abortion is one of the most sensitive topics society shuns to discuss, which from the word go is looked upon as evil. Having attended a workshop on safe abortion advocacy I have a different perspective of abortion.

I feel abortion should be a human right that every woman should be entitled to. It is a fact that unsafe abortions are happening in our society and many deaths result from unsafe abortions. As such, it is vital that we the youths take up the leading role and bring unsafe abortions to an end.

The Zambian law may be restrictive in some areas but the provision of safe services depends on the attitude and willingness of the health care providers and willingness of clients to come through. Reducing the need for abortion, be it unsafe or safe abortion, can be achieved by focusing on; changing the circumstances of women that make them vulnerable to unwanted/unplanned pregnancies; increasing women and men’s knowledge, access to and use of contraception; sexuality education for all, and addressing the poor economic prospects of women.

Mwape Kaunda, young peer educator in Kitwe


How I became an abortion rights advocate

By Aedín O’Cuill, medical student and intern at IPPF and the UK Family Planning Association

When I was 16, my biology teacher was taking the class through a session on reproduction. After a discussion about contraception, she looked up at the class and asked tentatively, “Does anyone here agree with abortion? Sometimes people have different views.” Although the question could certainly have been phrased better, I now look back at this as an act of incredible bravery. You just don’t talk about abortion in Ireland. It felt uncomfortable, shocking even. My teacher exposed herself to a lot of potential hostility in what I’m now sure was an attempt to break the silence and stigma surrounding the topic.

At the time, I shook my head vehemently, and no one spoke up in defence of abortion. “Of course it’s wrong”, I thought. “It’s a life.” At 16 I had never thought about the reasons why someone might have an abortion, and didn’t know that some of my nearest and dearest would have abortions in the coming years. When I thought of abortion, I thought only of the fetus, never the pregnant person. That’s the way the discourse around abortion had always been shaped in Ireland, and for the most part, still is.

Seven years later and I am a loud-and-proud abortion rights activist. I am working as an intern with IPPF and the UK Family Planning Association on projects tackling abortion stigma in the UK and internationally. I volunteer for an organisation called Abortion Support Network which provides practical information and financial assistance to women in Ireland, Northern Ireland and the Isle of Man who have to travel to Britain to access safe abortion services. I am a medical student and aspiring future abortion provider. It’s difficult to pinpoint exactly what has happened in the intervening years to inspire such a huge change.

When I was 16, I didn’t know that approximately 1 in 3 women will have an abortion in their lifetime. I didn’t know that restricting access to legal abortion does not reduce the number of abortions, but increases the number of unsafe abortions, which can lead to morbidity and death. I didn’t know that the women who have abortions are often the same women we see on the labour ward. I didn’t know that there was a strong moral argument to be made in favour of safeguarding women’s right to safe abortion. At 23, I know all of these things and more.

Having the choice about your pregnancy removed from you can have devastating consequences for women, their lives and their families. Abortion Support Network has heard from clients in incredibly difficult circumstances who have resorted to heart-breaking actions before learning that we could provide them with financial help. Abortion has always and will always exist; it is pregnant women who are best placed to make decisions about their pregnancies according to their own values and circumstances. They will continue to make these decisions regardless of what barriers the state or society puts in their way, and we must protect their right to make these decisions and endeavour to make abortion safe and accessible.

These days I am still ‘pro-life’- I am pro women’s lives.

Photo credit: Sam Boal


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.



Abortion messaging workshop in London

By Milly, a young volunteer at FPA in the UK

Abortion is a taboo subject across the world, even in places we view as the most progressive and forward-thinking. Last month, IPPF brought together people from the UK and internationally, working or volunteering in different human rights and sexual health organisations to learn more about abortion stigma, how to tackle it, and why it’s important that it stops.

What was initially very shocking, but sadly not surprising, was that no matter where in the world we were from it seemed that even the schools with better sex education failed to properly inform their students about abortion. For those of us from the UK there was an overwhelming consensus that our knowledge on abortion was primarily taught through ethics debates in religious education, often bringing with it myths and a total lack of facts and statistics.

Of the many activities we took part in, the most interesting made us face our internalised biases towards those seeking abortion by ranking the validity of reasons for someone to obtain an abortion. Whilst the more ‘extreme’ circumstances were generally ranked at the top, all of us agreed that the most important reason for someone asking for an abortion is that they had made that choice, and insightful discussions ensued about why the extreme circumstances were deemed the most compelling.

Participants agreed to take action after the workshop!

Despite one in three women in the UK having had an abortion, we still have a long way to go in how we talk about it, particularly in the media. By avoiding the word entirely or using pictures of pregnant women weeks from giving birth in articles, the media creates subtle  biases and stereotypes which are damaging to those who choose to terminate a pregnancy. As organisations and individuals we have to make sure that those around us and the general public are getting the information they need to make informed decisions about their bodies. 

Unsafe abortion in Benin/ L’avortement à risque au Bénin

by Hélène Hlungbo, IPPF Youth Champion and President of Youth Action Movement in Benin//Par Hélène Hlungbo, ‘Youth Champion’ de l’IPPF et présidente du mouvement d’action jeunesse au Bénin

International conventions on human rights, such as the Convention on the Rights of the Child[1], support the rights of young people to information, education and good health. In Benin, one out of every five deaths occurs in adolescents according to the Benin Demographic and Health Survey (EDSB IV, 2011-2012). The 2003 Act on Reproductive Health is fairly restrictive and authorizes abortion only in three situations: when the woman’s life/health is threatened, when there is malformation of the fetus and in cases of rape or incest.[2] This restrictive law means that many adolescent girls terminate unwanted pregnancies in secret, in places which are unhygienic and often not even recognized by the Beninese state as proper clinics. In most cases, there are complications or even deaths of adolescent girls as a result of these unsafe abortions.

Moreover, a survey carried out in Benin by the students of the University of Abomey Calavi (UAC) in 2015 reveals that the majority of patients referred to both the University Clinic of Obstetric Gynaecology and the Hospital and University Center of the Mother And Children are aged between 15 and 24, according to the various statistics collected in these hospitals. Also, registered abortions, especially those within this age group, exceed 50%.

Furthermore, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being, and not merely the absence of disease or disability. From this definition it can be noted that young people have the right to make informed choices and make decisions about sexuality. Although the law exists, it is very restrictive, its implementation limited and far from being a reality for want of political will. Many ‘unofficial clinics’ are providing care to the population at a very high cost. Medical ethics are trampled underfoot in the pursuit of profits, which has the direct consequence of unsafe abortions that are detrimental to the health of adolescents and young people.



Les Conventions internationales sur les droits humains telles que la Convention sur les droits de l’enfant soutiennent les droits des jeunes à l’information, à l’éducation et à une bonne santé.[1] Au Bénin 1 décès sur 5 est le fait d’une adolescente selon l’Enquête Démographique et de Santé du Bénin (EDSB IV, 2011-2012).[2] La loi de mars 2003 relative à la Santé de la Reproduction est assez restrictive et n’autorise l’avortement que dans trois (03) situations: lorsque la santé de la femme est menacée, lorsqu’il y a malformation du fœtus et en cas de viol ou d’inceste.[3] Cette restriction de la loi fait que de nombreuses adolescentes terminent des grossesses non désirées de façon clandestine dans des cabinets de soins peu adaptés et parfois même non reconnus par l’état béninois et dans des conditions peu recommandables. Dans la plupart des cas, on note des complications ou des décès dans le rang des adolescentes suite aux avortements à risques (non sécurisés).

Par ailleurs, une enquête réalisée au Bénin par les étudiants de l’Université d’Abomey Calavi (UAC) en 2015 révèle que la majorité des patientes référées aussi bien à la Clinique Universitaire de Gynécologie Obstétrique qu’au Centre Hospitalier et Universitaire de la Mère et de l’Enfant (CHU/MEL) ont un âge compris entre 15 et 24 ans, selon les diverses statistiques recueillies dans ces centres hospitaliers. Aussi, des avortements enregistrés, notamment ceux se situant entre cette tranche d’âge, excèdent les 50%.

En outre, selon l’Organisation mondiale de la santé (OMS), la santé est un état de bien-être physique, mental et social complet, et pas seulement l’absence de maladie ou d’incapacité. De cette définition, on peut ainsi retenir que les jeunes ont le droit d’opérer des choix éclairés et de prendre des décisions en matière de sexualité. Bien que la loi existe, elle est très restrictive, sa mise en application limitée et loin d’être une réalité faute de volonté politique. De nombreuses cliniques ne répondant pas aux normes sont opérationnelles et dispensent des soins aux populations à un coût très élevé. La déontologie médicale est foulée au pied au détriment de profits induits ce qui a pour conséquence directe ces avortements à risques préjudiciables à la santé des adolescentes et des jeunes.




Safe abortion must be one of my rights // L’avortement securise doit faire parti de mes droits

Interview by Sawdate Sawadogo, Youth Champion and Chairperson of the ABBEF Youth Action Movement in Burkina Faso

(En français ci-dessous)

Abortion stigma is a critical issue these days and a sensitive issue for so many girls. Abortion is often not something that is expected…however, the stigma is so strong that some girls are often forced to turn away from their dreams. Malia, a college student in Burkina Faso, faced this stigma:

“Even if social pressure weighs on you, take responsibility for a better tomorrow”

“My name is Malia. I am 16 years old. My dream is to be a lawyer. A few months ago, I had an unwanted pregnancy. As I did not know how the clinic nurse was going to react, so I went for a secret abortion. The next day I did not feel well, but I forced myself to go to school for fear that my parents would notice I was unwell. Arriving in class, I felt very sick, I was weak and I was losing blood. The headmaster took me home but my parents were away. So he took me to the hospital. Along the way, he asked me why I was losing so much blood. I told him I had my period. When we arrived at the hospital, I fell on the terrace. After the diagnosis, the doctor approached the headmaster to inform him that I had undergone a clandestine abortion. The abortion was very badly done by someone who wasn’t a proper doctor and my uterus was affected. When my mum and aunt came, they wanted to learn more about what was wrong with me. The doctor explained the situation to them.

On my return home my aunt explained the facts to my father in the presence of another girl who attends the same school as me. This is how the news spread to school. Some classmates were already coming to ask me at home whether it was true that I had had an abortion. I started to be afraid. Back at school, the students began to bully me by saying that I had aborted and that the headmaster had taken me to the hospital. I felt embarrassed, sidelined. The headmaster brought me back to the office to reassure me. He even threatened the students in collaboration with the teachers, which really comforted me. I told myself that I should not give up, that I could overcome this pain and fight for a better tomorrow. I had exams to do. So I concentrated as much as I could and received a good mark. At the end of this, I was awarded a scholarship for study abroad.

What if I had continued the pregnancy? I do not think I could have passed my exam and continued my studies.

Young people from Burkina Faso, this isn’t something which only happens to ‘other people’. Together, let’s say no to stigma and let girls like me realize their dreams! ”

Propos recueillis  par Sawdate SAWADOGO – Jeune championne/Présidente du Mouvement  d’Action des Jeunes de l’ABBEF

La stigmatisation de l’avortement est un problème crucial de nos jours et une question sensible pour tant de filles. L’avortement n’est souvent pas quelque chose que l’on prévoit… Il survient après analyse de certains paramètres jugés importants liés à la grossesse. Cependant, la stigmatisation est si forte que certaines filles sont souvent obligées de se détourner de leurs rêves. Mais Malia, élève d’un collège au Burkina Faso a relevé le défi. 

« Même si la pression sociale pèse sur vous, prenez vos responsabilités pour un lendemain meilleur »

« Je m’appelle Malia. Je suis en classe de 3ème  et j’ai 16 ans. Mon  rêve est d’être avocate. Il y a quelques mois, j’ai eu une grossesse non désirée ; comme je ne savais pas comment l’infirmière de la clinique allait réagir, je suis allée faire un avortement clandestin. Le lendemain, je ne me sentais pas bien, mais je me suis forcée pour aller à l’école de peur que mes parents ne remarquent mon mal. Arrivée en classe, je me sentais très malade, j’étais faible et je perdais du sang. Le proviseur m’a ramenée à la maison mais mes parents étaient absents. Il m’a donc conduite à l’hôpital. En cours de route, il m’a demandé pourquoi je perdais autant de sang. Je lui ai répondu que j’avais mes règles. Arrivée à l’hôpital, je suis tombée sur la terrasse. Après le diagnostic, le médecin a approché le proviseur pour lui annoncer que j’avais subi un avortement clandestin. L’avortement a été très mal fait et mon utérus était un peu touché. Quand ma maman et ma tante sont arrivées, elles voulaient apprendre davantage sur mon mal. Le médecin leur a expliqué la situation. Après les soins au retour à la maison ma tante a expliqué les faits à mon papa en présence d’une autre fille qui fréquente le même établissement. C’est ainsi  que la nouvelle s’est répandue à l’école. Certains camarades de classe venaient déjà me demander à la maison si c’était vrai que j’avais avorté. J’ai commencé à avoir peur. De retour à l’école, les élèves ont commencé à me héler en disant que j’avais avorté et que le proviseur m’avait amené à l’hôpital. Je me sentais gênée, mise à l’écart. Le proviseur m’a rappelée au bureau pour m’encourager. Il a même menacé les élèves en collaboration avec les professeurs, ce qui m’a vraiment réconfortée. Je me suis dit que je ne devrais pas baisser les bras, que je pourrais surmonter cette douleur et me battre pour un lendemain meilleur. Je devais composer le Brevet d’Etudes du Premier Cycle (BEPC). Je me suis donc concentrée dans les bosses et j’en suis sortie avec la mention ‘très bien’. A l’issue de cela, j’ai bénéficié d’une bourse d’études pour l’extérieur. 

Et si j’avais continué la grossesse ? Je ne pense pas que j’aurais pu réussir mon examen et poursuivre mes études.

Jeunes du Burkina Faso, cela n’arrive pas qu’aux autres. Ensemble, disons non à  la stigmatisation et permettons aux filles comme  moi de réaliser normalement leurs rêves ! »


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