Changing perceptions about abortion in rural Uganda

  • Milly, a teacher and VODA community volunteer, at a primary school in Kasawo, Uganda.
    Milly, a teacher and VODA community volunteer, at a primary school in Kasawo, Uganda.
  • Milly, a teacher and VODA community volunteer, provides information on sexual and reproductive health to pupils at a primary school in Kasawo, Uganda.
    Milly, a teacher and VODA community volunteer, provides information on sexual and reproductive health to pupils at a primary school in Kasawo, Uganda.
  • Noah is the VODA Project Manager. “People are conservative on some issues and one of the very sensitive issues is sexual and reproductive health and most especially abortion. Many people have very negative feelings about this, yet it is a cause of maternal mortality in Uganda.”
    Noah is the VODA Project Manager. “People are conservative on some issues and one of the very sensitive issues is sexual and reproductive health and most especially abortion. Many people have very negative feelings about this, yet it is a cause of maternal mortality in Uganda.”
  • Helen Grace is one of the local midwives working with VODA. "Unsafe abortion is very prevalent. In a month you can get more than five cases. It is a big problem."
    Helen Grace is one of the local midwives working with VODA. "Unsafe abortion is very prevalent. In a month you can get more than five cases. It is a big problem."
  • Christine, a VODA community volunteer, with the bike she uses to visit clients, outside her house near Kasawo, Uganda.
    Christine, a VODA community volunteer, with the bike she uses to visit clients, outside her house near Kasawo, Uganda.
  • Sharon, Ritah and Mabel are just three of the 99 VODA-trained student counsellors in their community. Peer educators in schools provide counselling and advice to other students, who otherwise would have no one to turn to in times of crisis.
    Sharon, Ritah and Mabel are just three of the 99 VODA-trained student counsellors in their community. Peer educators in schools provide counselling and advice to other students, who otherwise would have no one to turn to in times of crisis.
  • "As a peer counsellor I have benefited a lot. I have acquired information which I have used to keep myself safe in terms of unwanted pregnancies. In the past, I couldn’t manage to speak in public but now I can stand and talk freely." Mabel, is in her final year of O'Levels at a senior school in Kasana.
    "As a peer counsellor I have benefited a lot. I have acquired information which I have used to keep myself safe in terms of unwanted pregnancies. In the past, I couldn’t manage to speak in public but now I can stand and talk freely." Mabel, is in her final year of O'Levels at a senior school in Kasana.
  • "Many young girls have been lured into early sex because they need money that is why we end up with unwanted pregnancies. Many girls admire things which their parents cannot provide. In the past we have lost girls who were aborting through unsafe abortion methods. For me I think that the lives of those girls would have been saved if they had knowledge about contraceptives." Says school counselor, Sharon.
    "Many young girls have been lured into early sex because they need money that is why we end up with unwanted pregnancies. Many girls admire things which their parents cannot provide. In the past we have lost girls who were aborting through unsafe abortion methods. For me I think that the lives of those girls would have been saved if they had knowledge about contraceptives." Says school counselor, Sharon.
  • Now at senior school, Ritah has been a student counselor since she was at primary school. "I wasn’t as serious with studies before I became a counsellor but because I want to maintain that status, I have improved in my studies because I don’t want to feel ashamed in front of my fellow students. VODA gave us T-shirts for identification purposes. It also made people in the community respect me."
    Now at senior school, Ritah has been a student counselor since she was at primary school. "I wasn’t as serious with studies before I became a counsellor but because I want to maintain that status, I have improved in my studies because I don’t want to feel ashamed in front of my fellow students. VODA gave us T-shirts for identification purposes. It also made people in the community respect me."
  • Stevens, a nurse and VODA volunteer, counsels a student during a mobile outreach event on safe abortion and reproductive health at secondary school.
    Stevens, a nurse and VODA volunteer, counsels a student during a mobile outreach event on safe abortion and reproductive health at secondary school.
  • Jonathan from VODA and teacher Peter talk to students at a secondary school in Kasana about pregnancy, STIs and safe abortion.
    Jonathan from VODA and teacher Peter talk to students at a secondary school in Kasana about pregnancy, STIs and safe abortion.
  • Students at a secondary school in Kasana attend an information session on reproductive health by VODA staff and volunteers.
    Students at a secondary school in Kasana attend an information session on reproductive health by VODA staff and volunteers.
  • Students take the opportunity to write down their thoughts and questions for VODA staff to answer.
    Students take the opportunity to write down their thoughts and questions for VODA staff to answer.
  • Jonathan from VODA answers a students' questions on abortion, relationships and sexual health.
    Jonathan from VODA answers a students' questions on abortion, relationships and sexual health.
  • Peter, a teacher at a secondary school, talks to students about safe abortion and reproductive health during an event arranged by VODA in Kasana.
    Peter, a teacher at a secondary school, talks to students about safe abortion and reproductive health during an event arranged by VODA in Kasana.
  • Perceptions about abortion are changing and young people are keen to promote messaging to avoid unsafe abortion.
    Perceptions about abortion are changing and young people are keen to promote messaging to avoid unsafe abortion.
  • Maria, a student, says "At school I heard about VODA. They came to give us girls information about how to avoid unwanted pregnancies as well as safe abortion services."
    Maria, a student, says "At school I heard about VODA. They came to give us girls information about how to avoid unwanted pregnancies as well as safe abortion services."
  • Children run through a village in Kasawo, Uganda, as a storm approaches.
    Children run through a village in Kasawo, Uganda, as a storm approaches.

In the three years since the VODA Uganda project started there have been some incredible results. The project has brought about changes in perceptions about abortion in the community and schools, bringing community leaders and health workers on board, explaining the problems of unsafe abortion and directing girls and women to post-abortion care services.

VODA (volunteers of development assistance) is a local, grassroots project funded by the Safe Abortion Action Fund (SAAF). The Safe Abortion Action Fund (SAAF) which is hosted by IPPF, was set up in 2006 in order to support grass-roots organisations to increase access to safe abortion.