May 28 is the International Day of Action for Women’s Health, which for over 30 years, women’s rights advocates and allies in the sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) movement worldwide have commemorated in diverse ways. Year after year, women, girls, advocates and allies have continued to take action and stand up for sexual and reproductive rights for what they are: an indivisible and inalienable part of our human rights.
On this day, the MAMA Network ran an online campaign to convey the message that ”Abortion is Essential” and Abortion is still an essential service amid the COVID-19 Pandemic. Between May 25th and 28th MAMA Network members engaged in an online Advocacy Campaign for the International Day of Action for Women’s Health with the hashtag #AbortionBeyondLockdown MAMA believes that no laws, no diplomas, no stigma and no pandemic should be gatekeepers to reproductive justice.
The COVID19 pandemic has placed many barriers to access abortion and
exposed the unnecessary requirements set by the laws in place. Still aligned to MAMA’s main objective to expand access to services and information about abortion with the pills, MAMA Members were in solidarity to share the message that self-managed abortion is safe, effective, discrete, and can be done at home.
- 13 organizations from 9 countries participated in the campaign.
- A total of 53 solidarity images and 3 solidarity videos of the campaign were received.
- The total reach for the campaign was 1,575 with the most active countries being Nigeria and Kenya.
After a successful reunion at ICPD+25, yet again MAMA Network brought its influence at the Inroads Global Gathering to share experiences, research findings, achievements, lessons learned and expertise. The ICPD+25 2019 marked the 25th anniversary of the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) in Cairo, where 179 governments adopted a landmark Programme of Action which set out to empower women and girls for their sake, and for the benefit of their families, communities and nations.
Prior to ICPD+25, the MAMA Network was invited to the WGNRR pre-icpd+25 gathering to speak on the importance of movement building for Reproductive Rights Activists and together discuss how MAMA Network’s shared experience can ensure a cohesive voice during ICPD+25.
Early this year in 2020, MAMA Network actively contributed to the Inroads Global Gathering by leading and facilitating sessions. MAMA Network team took leadership to organize sessions on networking, holistic security, the state of abortion in Kenya – the host of the Inroads gathering and was honored for space and opportunity to share its scientific findings on abortion and medical abortion in Africa.
Right before we closed the year, the MAMA Network organized its own regional gathering were 25/35 of the member organizations came together to share impact and strategize for the common goal ahead.
To mark a successful and impactful movement of reproductive health and rights activists in sub-Saharan African, the last 2 quarters were graced with an honorable invite in the Republic of Congo to speak on advocacy, networking, and holistic security for grassroots activists. A regional gathering of Francophone organizations in the region.
28 September is International Safe Abortion Day. The day was first celebrated as a day of action for the decriminalization of abortion in Latin America and the Caribbean in 1990. In 2011 it was declared as an international day. September 28th, 2016 was the biggest International Safe Abortion Day ever celebrated. Many groups took action. September 2016 also marks the birth of the MAMA Network.
September 28th, 2019 the MAMA Network records a total of 35 member organizations from 16 Sub-Saharan African Countries, including partners in the Netherlands and in the United States. Implemented activities on this day unified reproductive health and rights activists and saw ‘access to safe abortion’ trending across the globe.
The global gag rule (GGR) is the silencing of organizations on abortion advocacy. It has been proven by IWHC and IPPF that silencing abortion only reduces safe abortion for women and girls and not the cases of abortion. In addition to this, there is a misunderstanding surrounding the global gag rule (GGR) which further creates a gap for women and girls in need of accessing safe abortion care.
In DRC articles 165, 166 supports safe abortion to save the life of the woman but factors such as stigma and misinformation lead women to not accessing the service. A conference was held to bring clarity among women in the community and educate women on the use of misoprostol to save women’s lives against postpartum hemorrhage (PPH). Maternal mortality and morbidity is a global issue that needs to be handled with urgency.
The MAMA Network also held a twitter chat to disseminate a desk review report that acted as the basis for onground research on women’s access to abortion and to evaluate the effectiveness of onground implemented activities. The twitter chat held on September 27th and September 28th reached an audience of 4,481 people and grew it’s following by 50%.
The MAMA Network is a 4-year program that began on September 2016 and coordinated by Trust for Indigenous Culture and Health – TICAH and Women Help Women. With the support of SAAF – Safe Abortion Fund; seven non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and community activists in Central, East, and West Africa are collaborating to generate evidence on a shared vision of regional needs with regard to community activism on self-managed medication abortion. Through researches conducted, community leaders, activists, and members shared their views on the works of MAMA Network member organizations in their community.
Perspectives on the impact of MAMA services in communities
Community leaders and health workers perceive positive changes in their community due to the activities of MAMA organizations:
”There is a lot of change. As I told you earlier, many women used to die due to complications from unsafe abortions. Now, many women have been taught how to do it safely and there is visible change.” (Community leader, Malawi)
”I think they [MAMA org] have helped and they should continue because this is a big village compared to the number of people getting information. It’s true when you share information with five women, other ten will receive it but I would like it to continue because we still have a big area that we have not covered it yet.” (Community health worker, Kenya)
Views on medication abortion versus other abortion methods
Community members expressed a preference for medication abortion over other abortion methods due to price, effectiveness, safety, and privacy:
”The pills are much better because women don’t have to go to a public hospital to have the abortion. Hospitals have too many people which eliminate privacy. With pills, a woman can do everything in her bedroom at an early stage of the pregnancy, according to the advice she received during training. If all the advice is followed, the woman is protected and the matter remains private.” (Community leader, Malawi)
”Abortion with surgery is expensive…abortion with pills like I said is affordable, it is more effective according to the WHO standards and I have seen ladies who used it and they came to testify that they used it, it works and they are back again. For me, I would go for that pill.” (Community health worker, Nigeria)
The MAMA Network model has the potential to empower organizations with expanded knowledge about safe medication abortion, and thereby to increase access to safe medication abortion for their communities. Building evidence for the impact of collaborative strategies adopted by a strong regional network will strengthen grassroots level initiatives and provide a roadmap for how organizations can learn from and leverage each other’s’ strengths across diverse contexts. Ultimately, findings from the MAMA Network study with the support of SAAF – Safe abortion Fund will inspire other actors to network in a similar fashion, strengthening efforts to dismantle the stigma around abortion and reduce the incidence of unsafe abortion broadly.
Building evidence around Medical Abortion: Women Deliver Conference Poster
Findings from the MAMA Network and the current research study with Ibis Reproductive Health were presented during a poster session at the 2019 Women Deliver conference in Vancouver, Canada. The poster, titled “MAMA Network: Expanding sexual and reproductive health information and access in Central, East, and West Africa” featured an overview of the MAMA network, including the history and objective of the network, and preliminary findings from interviews with community leaders and health workers from Kenya, Malawi, and Nigeria. The preliminary findings highlighted the positive changes and impact that MAMA organizational activities have had on their community, such as educating community members about how to get information on medication abortion. In addition, community leaders and health workers also reported on the benefits of medication abortion, including its effectiveness, safety, privacy, and low cost compared to surgical abortion. Overall, this poster shared how the MAMA network model has the potential to empower organization with expanded knowledge about safe medication abortion, and thereby increase access to safe abortion for their communities.
Over 15 new grassroots organizations have joined the MAMA Network’s reproductive justice movement for Sub-Saharan Africa.
In efforts to extend and strengthen the MAMA Network, membership registration was extended to new organizations motivated to increase access to medical abortion in Sub-Saharan Africa. After a thorough process of screening of all organizations that applied, webinars were conducted to kickstart the movement with the new partners. The goals of the introductory webinars held in French and in English were to;
• Meet and get to know each other
• Introduce new members to the MAMA network
• Present upcoming activities of the MAMA Network
BIG WINS !!!
- MAMA network currently has Three Network grants supporting its movement in Sub-Saharan Africa. The Network is supported by Amplify Change and Safe Abortion Fund. This support will allow for network expansion, the creation of evidence on safe abortion and joint advocacy.
- MAMA Network held it’s first All-MAMA members online meeting in February where network members shared 2018 achievements, growth and needs for 2019. The MAMA Network also highlighted it’s achievements and what next.
- In 2018 September 28th, 2018, MAMA Network launched its official website. www.mamanetwork.org. Network members and other organizations can access important reproductive health and rights resources and information.
MAMA Network 2018 Highlighted Achievements:
- 6 member organizations were sub-granted by MAMA Network.
- 2 Hotlines launched in Uganda and Tanzania
- IEC materials translated in 5 local languages.
- Hotlines presentations by TICAH, WHW, Giwyn, Foha and Coherinet in South Africa for the Reproductive Justice Conference with Keynote Speech from Jade Maina – TICAH.
- Research training by IBIS Reproductive Health in Nairobi with 7 MAMA organizations
- Hotline mentorship to strengthen management, counseling, and communication techniques.
- National SRHR training led by Giwyn in Cameroon supported by WHW and TICAH
- Members exchanges for mentorship and trainings (Kenya, Tanzania, Nigeria, Uganda)
- Launch of the MAMA Network Website to mark September 28th
- MAMA Network partnership with IBIS Reproductive Health to build evidence on safe abortion.
2019 MAMA Network membership expansion
MAMA’s membership expansion in 2019 will cut across sub-Saharan Africa. This will allow for a decentralized network and, strengthening of internal structures and M&E systems, regrants to member organizations, exchange visits between members, capacity building for members and organizations, safety and security, advocacy, etc.
Generating Evidence around Medical Abortion in Sub-Saharan Africa
In partnership with IBIS Reproductive Health with support from SAAF and Amplify Change. MAMA Network members are carrying out community research to understand community perception of safe abortion through hotline interviews, community interviews, and community surveys. All members acquired research capacity building in Nairobi in May 2018.