On 14th March 2023, Human Rights Defender and Abortion Activist Justyna Wydrzyńska was convicted and sentenced for providing abortion pills to a woman who sought to exercise her right to bodily autonomy. In Poland, abortion is legal only when the continuation of pregnancy endangers the woman’s life or health or when the pregnancy results from a criminal act. Although there are no penalties for women for the termination of pregnancy, there are criminal sanctions for persons who assist in the termination of the pregnancy, including medical personnel.
In Africa and most countries worldwide, women’s and girls’ bodies are subject to politicization and over-policing. Sexual reproductive health and rights are severely curtailed, and activists often work in environments fearing criminal sanctions and political and social recrimination. Persecution and threats of prosecution have created a harsh environment and made it challenging for human rights defenders to support women and girls needing assistance and care.
International human rights instruments have set out the right to the best attainable standards of health, right to dignity, right to privacy, bodily autonomy and integrity and freedom from cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment as fundamental inherent and inalienable human rights. The denial of these rights through overt and covert actions of criminalization and over-regulation leads to discrimination and outright human rights violations.
Access to legal and safe abortion reduces maternal mortality and morbidity and enhances the quality of life for many women and girls. Further, the World Health Organization (WHO) provides that safe and non-invasive method of medical abortions can be self-managed using pills up to the twelfth week of pregnancy.
Thus, the prosecution and conviction of Human Rights Defender Justyna Wydrzyńska clearly illustrate the challenges facing all persons who support women and girls seeking their right to bodily autonomy. This conviction serves to intimidate and increase angst amongst human rights defenders all over the world.
We call on leaders and legislators in all states to decriminalize abortion and cease the persecution and prosecution of persons who assist and work towards creation legal structures that facilitate and ensure safe access to sexual and reproductive health care.
Mobilizing Activists around Medical Abortion – MAMA – Network is a collaboration of grassroots activists and feminist groups based in Sub-Saharan Africa. The MAMA Network represents a regional movement of activists working to share evidence-based and stigma-free information about self-managed medical abortion (SMA) and sexual and reproductive health and rights directly with women on community level. MAMA has over 50 members spread throughout anglophone and francophone Africa, and after developing its Advocacy Agenda would now like to strengthen its advocacy strategies.
MAMA seeks to focus on the underlying issues surrounding unsafe abortion as it advances its vision. In so doing, it will also begin to work more systematically at mitigating the opposition and stigma associated with abortion and add to the systemic changes that will advance reproductive justice, care, and decriminalization of abortion by addressing the legal, and policy issues surrounding self-managed abortion. Using advocacy, MAMA seeks to contribute to changing the situation represented by the statistics above in ways that will bring meaningful change in the access to full reproductive health of women and pregnant people in Africa where affordable, safe, and effective self-managed abortion is a key component.
In line with the Advocacy strategic plan, this consultancy is aimed at supporting the activities of the MAMA advocacy team and MAMA members towards advocating for SMA in the African regions. This will be through facilitating MAMA organizations social media initiatives to shift the needle on SMA narratives in-country and the African region through positive and targeted SMA messaging.
Terms of Reference
The Consultant proposes to fulfil the terms of the consultancy by undertaking the following activities: –
1. Support thematic conceptual messaging for MAMA Advocacy. This includes: a. Monitoring regional and international trends, themes and language on SMA to ensure harmony of messages being generated.
b. Documenting and analyzing patterns of opposition in the African region to conceive communications that overcome the negative messaging. These positive messages can be shared and adopted by MAMA members in their advocacy programs.
c. Develop themes and messages building up important dates in the regional international platforms on SMA to share with MAMA members leading up to the dates
2. Organizing media outreach: Work with MAMA members to amplify their advocacy work on media platforms. This includes:
a. Reach out to and work with MAMA members on their advocacy workplans on how to maximize advocacy messages on their social media platforms and assist with posting on these platforms.
b. Conduct online training on how to position advocacy messaging on their social media platforms.
c. Support MAMA members monitoring their output and supporting them to have consistent messages on their social media platforms
3. Drafts communications and advocacy material for key SRHR dates throughout the year. a. Create a database of key important dates on SRHR focused on Abortion and SMA. b. Support MAMA members by prompting them and assisting them to post positive advocacy messaging on key dates
4. Evaluate results and impact of communications activities; reports on developments, trends and attitudes regarding SMA
a. Collect and collate data on trends and changes, from feedback from MAMA members on the advocacy message and the potential positive impact.
b. Develop a trends assessment on messaging that is working best and share this with MAMA members to enable them to facilitate more of this nature of messaging. 5. Anticipate and resolve communications/ public relations issues/problems: a. Support MAMA members to monitor and create media updates on SMA to counter opposition messages on social media.
6. Social media interaction: Identify SMA Advocacy champions within the social media/influencer space and link them with MAMA members to work together advance SMA messaging.
7. Takes the lead in organizing MAMA Advocacy media outreach; arranges all media contacts, press briefings, and interviews; provides talking points and other materials incase on press engagements.
Qualifications of consultant
1. 2+ years prior experience in a communications role
2. Understand the best practices of main social media channels including Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc
3. Must possess exceptional writing skills and be able to compose engaging and accurate content
4. Strong communicator who works well independently and with a team
5. Superior time management skills and the ability to juggle multiple projects simultaneously 6. Knowledge of Adobe PhotoShop, InDesign, and Illustrator is an asset
7. Understanding of communications, public relations best practices
8. Ability to think strategically and identify ways to improve communication efforts 9. Must be resourceful and take initiative even when given minimal direction
The duration of this consultancy will be from March 2023 to June 2023
Please send in applications to firstname.lastname@example.org Deadline for application is 14th February 2023
In Sierra Leone, too many women and girls are still suffering under the existing Offences Against the Person Act of 1861 that criminalizes abortion in Sierra Leone, a century before the country won independence from Britain. Previous attempts at reform have failed, including in 2015, when MPs passed an abortion law that would have allowed terminations up to 12 weeks of pregnancy. The bill was blocked by the then president, Ernest Bai Koroma, amid pressure from religious and anti- abortion groups. and as a result, even when a girl or woman was legally eligible for a safe abortion they would opt for an unsafe, backyard abortion. There was a fear of being ostracized, and strong religious beliefs. The Women’s Health and Reproductive Rights Sierra Leone (WHRRO) is implementing several project activities in two districts (Bombali and Karana) in Northern region. The project activities are funded by International Planned Parenthood Federation, hosting the Safe Abortion Action Fund (SAAF) and Africa Women’s Development Fund (AWDF). We sought to improve knowledge and support among community leaders, duty bearers and the public for the repeal of the existing Offences Against the Person Act of 1861 which impede access to safe abortion care; improve access to quality safe abortion care and SRHR services and reduce abortion stigma. These activities include value clarification and attitude transformation workshop, community outreach, awareness creation including the use of drama, radio discussions and training of partners in the health sector to address issues of stigma and discrimination associated with abortions in rural communitiesof Sierra Leone.
Engagement with Stakeholders from all sectors
The increased knowledge about SRHR within these targeted communities, opened opportunities to engage and sensitise the cultural and religious stakeholders. In the past, these traditional and religious leaders were not fully supportive of the safe abortion agenda which lead to the previous attempts reform failed in 2015 due to a limited understanding and knowledge which was extremist.
Before some traditional leaders considered the abortion agenda as taboo and thought abortion was negatively impacting the way of life for communities. The continued engagement with these leaders through value clarification attitudes and transformation has resulted in more progressive attitudes on access to abortion and SRHR. At a time when sexual and reproductive health rights for women are either being overturned or threatened, we are proud that there were significant results from the projects funded by SAAFUND and AWDF around the transformation of communities’ attitudes. Targeted Communities were now more accommodating of women and girls who had an abortion, and religious and cultural leaders made a commitment to be non-judgmental and learn more about how they could destigmatize abortion.
September 28 International Safe Abortion Day Community parade
During this year International Safe Abortion Day September 28, we carryout community-to-community parade to address negative social norms surrounding abortion during uncertain times by disseminating facts on the rates of unsafe abortion, the consequences of illegal and unsafe abortion, as well as the benefits of access to legal and safe abortion on an individual and societal level. Finally we’ve seen a noticeable decrease in general stigma towards girls and young women who seek safe abortion services rural communities.
To mark International Safe Abortion Day (ISAD) 2022, Centre for Social Concern and Development (CESOCODE) conducted an activity to advocate for access to safe abortion care. The goal of the activity was to strengthen awareness on the right of women and girls to access safe and legal abortion care in our community. The activity engaged relevant stakeholders such as the pharmacists, health care providers and organizations working in the areas of Reproductive Health. The advocacy campaign meeting carried key messages, highlighting that the decision to seek an abortion belongs to women and girls deepened understand that access to safe abortion is protected as a right and addressing abortion-related stigma by supporting health workers who may currently not feel safe to provide safe abortion care. We are fighting for safe abortion to be accessible and a right for girls and women in our community. The safe abortion decision belongs to the women and the girls and it has to be really informed by the scientific evidence. Access to the highest attainable standard of sexual and reproductive health including safe abortion, is a core human right. The ability to decide if and when to have children, and access to safe, timely, affordable, respectful and person-centered abortion care, including information and post-abortion care, helps to safeguard the health and well-being of women, girls, their families and their communities. Health is a human right, and abortion care is health care. Promoting and protecting access to quality abortion care is essential to achieve a world where everyone is able to access the highest standards of sexual and reproductive health services, and reach their full potential.
Contact Trust Youth Association (CTYA) has worked in Zambia since 1997, focusing on the goal of young people having access to all sexual reproductive health rights, including access to safe abortion. Although abortion is legal in Zambia, the barriers to accessing safe abortion care are disquieting. There is a solid and persistent social stigma surrounding abortion. Very few women know they have the right to safe, legal abortion or know where to seek safe abortion services; as a result, unsafe abortion is a significant problem in Zambia and a major contributor to the high mortality rate. CTYA joined the rest of the organizations and activists worldwide that advocate for the rights of adolescent girls and women to take action and speak out for access to safe and legal abortions. CTYA held a Girls’ Informative open session with 50 girls from 10 different schools within Livingstone District in commemorating International Safe Abortion Day – 28th September, under the Theme “Abortion in Uncertain Times”. In these uncertain times where there are so many barriers to accessing safe abortion, including stigma, discrimination, and hate speech towards abortion, we decided to engage adolescent girls by sensitizing them on the dangers of unsafe abortion and how best they can be avoided. The activity aimed to increase awareness of safe abortion as a reproductive health right and enable a safe, shared. Inclusive space for Adolescent Girls and Young Women (AGYW) to gain information and develop an understanding of sexual reproductive health and rights.
The session was highly interactive; girls could ask personal questions concerning abortion, and responses were coming from the girls within the group. The level of confidence in the response was very encouraging and indicated that the girls have been empowered and are now more knowledgeable than before. “I feel you have the right to make a decision that you think is right for you because in the end, you are the one whose life will be affected. But it is also important that, as we make decisions, they should be informed decisions.” (participant). In the past, abortion could not be talked about openly, as it was considered taboo, and the fact that our country was declared a Christian Nation. We introduced Aunty Tasha Helpline as a partner that works with CTYA, where the girls could access or refer their peers in case of any SRHR problem and if they felt they needed someone to talk to but could not share with someone close to them. The day was filled with entertainment and educative activities such as dances, games, question and answer sessions,s and creative art. The girls went away with Aunty Tasha Branded items that included Mug cups, T-shirts, and brochures.
In uncertain times, we commit to being visible and speaking out on women’s rights to access Sexual Reproductive Health services and information without being stigmatized and criminalized.
In Nigeria Abortion is legal only when performed in case of rape, or incest and to save a woman’s life. Most women seeking to terminate early pregnancy result in an unsafe way leading to 33% death, 285 unsolved cases leading to mobility, and untold complications in 1000 unsafe abortions in Nigeria.
The Trust And support foundation with support from MAMA networks with a goal to increase access to quality sexual reproductive health and the right and safe abortion for indigenous/women living with HIV. They trained a total of 70 participants comprised of (41 indigenous/women living with HIV, 19 pharmacists, 10 champions on access to SRHR, and safe abortion age 15-35 years in Nigeria. Before the training 5% knew SMA after a 95% increase in knowledge of SMA, participants demonstrated the use of MA pills for SMA successfully.
Our training was very vital in helping us reach more than 800 women with an increase in knowledge on safe abortion, Postpartum hemorrhage, and family planning services within 6 months of the project line, indigenous /women living with HIV are able to make an informed decision on their body autonomy, there is a reduction in morbidity and mortality of unsafe abortion and misconception and stigma related to abortion was reduced within communities through stakeholders engaged and SAC
stakeholders’ capacity was strengthened and they serve as referral building synergy between indigenous/ women and pharmacists on SMA pills.
The mobility and mortality rate of unsafe abortion can be averted through access to reproductive health information using WHO guidelines for women of reproductive ages. There is also a need to engage more activists on the grass root to harness women’s voices in demanding the removal of any barriers to safe abortion in Nigeria while also advocating relevant stakeholders to legalize abortion and hold the government accountable for any life lost as a result of unsafe abortion.
MAMA – Mobilizing Activists around Medical Abortion is a network of organizations centered on disseminating knowledge about and expanding access to medical abortion at the community level in Sub-Saharan African countries. As such, MAMA sits at the heart of a large grassroots activist movement seeking to change the narrative on reproductive justice in Africa through community activism for safe abortion.
With its mission to shape the landscape of reproductive justice in Africa, MAMA’s communication goals are :
To create more visibility around some of the work MAMA is doing across the continent in a safe way that does not jeopardize its operations
To ensure that communities served by MAMA have access to simplified information on sexual and reproductive health
To create trust with the communities served by MAMA and establish MAMA as the go-to for information on reproductive health on the African continent
MAMA is looking for a communications consultant to guide our external digital communication of the MAMA network and help focus its outreach efforts around its set of goals. The objectives of this consultancy are as follows:
Assess what is working and what is not so that the digital communication of MAMA can be improved.
Tailor MAMA’s message towards specific audiences and determine which outreach, marketing materials & media channels are best suited for communication with those groups.
Coordinate the creation and implementation of communication materials, built on sourcing the members of the network.
The deliverables are as follows:
Do an audit of current channel communications
Develop a brand persona for MAMA
Map an audience segmentation and outreach strategy centering on MAMA members
Evaluation plan to monitor growth
The activities would, ideally, be carried out between October- December. If you are interested in this vacancy. Please share your CV and a proposal, including costs as well as evidence of similar/previous work on or before to email@example.com . Only shortlisted consultants will be contacted for an interview. Deadline is October 10th.
Eshet Children and Youth Development Organization is a local civil society organization based in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The organization is primarily dedicated to contributing to the development and well-being of children, youth, women, and other disadvantaged groups of people including people with disability. The organization implements various developmental projects by focusing on the social problems of the grass root community in Ethiopia. In addition, ECYDO works on preventing the spread of HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases by creating awareness in the communities. Moreover, the organization works on Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights of women and girls, Family Planning as well as dissemination of women and girls’ rights information, and awareness on related issues. Because the organization is contributing to fighting against harmful traditional practices including female genital mutilation, abduction, and unsafe abortion practices, the condition of the sexual and reproductive health of women and girls in the region is improving.
As usual, Eshet Children and Youth Development Organization has launched a sexual and reproductive health project in collaboration with MAMA Network in Arsi Zone, Ethiopia. The project activities involve stakeholders’ workshops, SRH Doulas and medical professionals training, and community outreach. The project plan was sketched out and the activities were undertaken in a good manner.
After undertaking the community research and designing the project, Eshet Children and Youth Development Organization signed the project agreement with MAMA Network for strong collaboration, good partnership, and joint support and implement the project. As per our project plan, the first activity that is the workshop of relevant stakeholders was undertaken. In our plan, 2 stakeholders’ workshops were undergone in Tiyo District and Digeluna Tijo District of Arsi Zone, Ethiopia. The members of SRH doulas candidates, the leaders of the health office of the districts, directors/heads of 5 health centers, pharmacists, the leaders of the women, children, and youth affairs office, and administrative authorities participated in the workshop.
Events carried out in the workshop include launching and familiarization of the project, advocacy, strengthening networking and collaboration, discussion on the better strategies of increasing access to SRHr services , and engaging the government partners in the project for better success.
Selection of the SRH Doulas
The community Sexual and Reproductive Health Doulas are the main pillars of this project. Accordingly, about 50 sexual and reproductive health doulas were selected from two districts jointly by the district’s offices of women, children, and youth affairs and Eshet Children and Youth Development Organization. These are Tiyo District with 21 kebeles (villages) and Digelunna Tijo District which has 28 kebeles (villages). In each of the two districts, 25 sexual and reproductive health doulas have been selected. Out of the 50 SRH doulas, 15 of them are delalas (mediators) i.e. those who push women and girls towards harmful traditional practices. The selection criteria include that the candidate:
Must be a female
Must complete at least 10th grade
Has a little bit hint about sexual and reproductive health or family planning
An active speaker and good at communication
Training of the SRH doulas
We use professional trainers from Arsi University. After selecting and registering 50 community sexual and reproductive health doulas (non-medical professional doulas) from 2 districts, we have given them comprehensive training for 3 days by our trainers. The training was conducted in 2 groups. The first group comprising 25 sexual and reproductive health doulas attended the training at Asella Town Administration whereas the second group comprising the same number received the training at Sagure Town Administration with the aim of capacity building.
The Community Sexual and Reproductive Health Doulas training was given on important topics including signs of pregnancy, unwanted/unplanned pregnancy, medical abortion, contraceptives, procedures, and post-abortion family planning by the professional from Arsi University named Solomon Tejineh (Assistant Prof.). The key points of the training include the types and ways of taking the pills (misoprostol and mifepristone), doses, procedures, symptoms, contraindications, etc. It also includes a self-managed abortion.
The assessment of the trainees was conducted by pretest and post-test. The results indicate that their knowledge about medical abortion increased by more than 50%. The sexual and reproductive health doulas will assist and link the women and girls to the health centers to facilitate access to medical abortion and related services. And at the end of the training, they were given the reporting format for their community-based services. The reports will be collected from the SRH doulas every 1 or 2 months.
Information leaflet and community outreach
The information leaflets were prepared in English, Amharic, and Oromiffa. The leaflets explain the harmful traditional practices, the danger (risk) of unsafe abortion, the safety of accessing medical abortion, and related issues. In addition, 4 community outreach programs were carried out. The outreach involves edutainment including teaching dramas, short plays, poems, and music. During the outreach program, the information leaflets were distributed to the participants in the languages they needed. About 500 brochures and leaflets were distributed to the participants. Through the community outreach programs we have reached more than 1,400 people out of which 13 are commercial sex workers, 19 are survivors of violence, 5 are internally displaced people, 10 are people living with HIV/AIDS, 7 are persons with disability, and about 22 are single moms out of which the majorities are younger.
Selection of Health Professionals for training
Out of the 9 health centers found in the 2 districts, 5 health centers were selected jointly by the head of Arsi Zone and the heads of the districts health offices and Eshet Children and Youth Development Organization. The selected health centers are:
Gonde Health Center (in Tiyo District)
Golja Health Center (in Tiyo District)
Tijo Health Center (in Digeluna Tijo District)
Sagure Health Center (in Digeluna Tijo District)
Digelu Health Center (in Digeluna Tijo District)
Each of the health centers is required to present 3 relevant health professionals for the training.
The Health Professionals’ training
According to the plan of our project, 15 health professionals are selected from 5 health centers and receive the training which makes about 15 professionals. However, through communication and discussion with the heads of the districts’ health offices, we have participated in 17 professionals with the same budget and time. We have included 2 more health staff in the training from 2 health centers namely Arrabbi Health Center and Hofi Health Center. And about 17 health professionals received comprehensive training on medical abortion including contraceptives, the service procedures, counseling, treatment for severe contraindication, family planning, and related issues. The training was delivered by an expert woman from Arsi University called Mamit Mamo under the supervision of ECYDO.
Throughout the project, there are good achievements. These include:
A strong network and collaboration on access to SRHR services including medical abortion were created among the relevant stakeholders including the government offices.
People’s outlook and awareness of medical abortion were improved through community outreaches and information leaflets
Government and community parts start to engage in enhancing access to medical abortion
Advocacy on strategy improvement on access to medical abortion
40 stakeholders took part in the sessions and pledged to enhance access to medical abortion as opposed to unsafe abortion.
50 Sexual and reproductive health doulas received a good quality capacity development training
17 health professionals have improved their skills specifically in medical abortion
The percentage of people having lower awareness decreased from 70% to 30% in a random end-line survey.
Access to medical abortion is increased from 20% to 35%
The needy women and girls started to receive the necessary services (the medical abortion information, access, and assistance including referral for safe abortion)
The health centers start to give more focus on enhancing access to medical abortion
High impact on the communities’ traditional beliefs and level of understanding of the safety of medical abortion
Women and girls start to be linked to the health centers for information and medical abortion services through the community sexual and reproductive health doulas
Challenges during the implementation of the project include shortage of the budget, short duration of the training, absence of office or center of organizing activities for the SRH doulas, absence of transportation service, the higher influence of the traditional beliefs towards women and girls, Covid-19 and long lasted Harmful Traditional Practices(HTP) .
The opportunities include the willingness of the government stakeholders and officers, baseline data collection for measuring the changes, the secured environment in our project area as compared to other parts of Ethiopia, etc.
You can learn more about ECYDO work on their website: ECYDO | Home
The Trust and Support Foundation Join voice with 150 women advocates in Lagos State Nigeria to demand the immediate lift of suspension on safe legal abortion guideline we believe that the state government is being blackmailed by religious, cultural, and political sentiments, and women have a right to their bodily integrity and take a decision on their reproductive health. what the guild lines is pushing for us to save women from a good preventable death. The suspension of the Guideline on safe Termination of pregnancy for Legal indication should immediately be lifted.
Restrictive laws have not prevented women with unplanned pregnancies from resorting to abortion anywhere, it only makes the procedure dangerous and unsafe. Women should be allowed to make informed decisions on their body autonomy and self-manage their abortion in a safe way
Trust And support Foundation (TSF) is a non-governmental and non-profitable organisation establish in 2018 formerly known as Trust And care initiative.The organisation is rooted to support women and girls in rural communities with passion to reduced morbidity and mortality rate among young women of reproductive ages through adequate knowledge on SRHR, equity, gender-based violence and HIV. we sustain a common front to enable women and girls make inform decision about their general well-being through information, income generation activities. You can learn more about the organization here: THE TRUST AND SUPPORT FOUNDATION
Cross section of participants who attended the May 28 meeting.
May 28th is the International Day of Action for Women’s Health. Women’s rights advocates and allies in the sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) movement worldwide have commemorated in diverse ways. MAMA Member selected this year’s theme as “Using technology to improve women’s access to health”
CESOCODE commemorated the day by organizing an offline meeting to call the government through the Ministry of health and the Pharmacists to facilitate access to telemedicine and to Work together with feminist organizations and hotlines to provide the correct information to those seeking abortion, free of judgment and stigma.
For the part of the government, we discussed that the government has a role to make sure that the sharing of information about Abortion and Self-Managed Abortions has been decriminalized, it facilitating access to abortion pills and allowing pregnant people, who wish to abort on the first trimester abortions to be able to access Self-Managed Abortion outside Health facilities.
During the meeting we also discussed that, to maximizing the potential for medical abortion to improve access to safe abortion and reduce use of unsafe methods, the pharmacies need to be supported to ensure that high quality products are available, and women have access to client-cantered information about how to use these products safely. Feminist organizations can support pharmacies to increase access and improve quality through:
Training pharmacy workers to deliver accurate information and support
Ensuring contact details are included on the packaging for follow-up care, in case unexpected side effects arise
Providing 24 hour hotlines to share tailored information about MA self-management and follow-up care
Including pictorial instructions in product packaging, for clients with language and literacy barriers.
We discussed that feminist organizations have a role to ensure that women are accessing safe abortion information without relying on pharmacy staff only. For example, safe abortion hotlines are commonly used to ensure that individuals can access counselling and information about self-management of medical abortion. Hotlines can offer confidential and personalized counselling, and including an advice online on the packaging of medical abortion products can help facilitate access to those who need it. Hotlines also offer information about how to use the pills in a freely accessible way. This means that using technology to improve women’s access to health is important.