Community members’ perspective towards MAMA and access to safe medical abortion

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.