Senegal’s IPPF Member Association, Association Sénégalaise pour le Bien-Etre Familial (ASBEF) ran two clinics in the capital, Dakar, until funding was cut in 2017 due to the reinstatement of the Global Gag Rule (GGR) by the US administration. The ASBEF clinic in the struggling suburb of Guediawaye was forced to close as a result of the GGR, leaving just the main headquarters in the heart of the city.
The GGR prohibits foreign non-governmental organizations (NGOs) who receive US assistance from providing abortion care services, even with the NGO’s non-US funds. Abortion is illegal in Senegal except when three doctors agree the procedure is required to save a mother’s life.
ASBEF applied for emergency funds and now offers an alternative service to the population of Guediawaye, offering sexual and reproductive health services through pop-up clinics.
Asba Hann is the president of the Guediawaye chapter of IPPF’s Africa region youth action movement. She explains how the Global Gag Rule (GGR) cuts have deprived youth of a space to ask questions about their sexuality and seek advice on contraception.
“Since the closure of the clinic, the nature of our advocacy has changed. We encounter a lot more problems in our area, above all from young people and women asking for services. ASBEF (Association Sénégalaise pour le Bien-Etre Familial) was a little bit less expensive for them and in this suburb there is a lot of poverty.
Our facilities as volunteers also closed. We offer information to young people but since the closure of the clinic and our space they no longer get it in the same way, because they used to come and visit us.
We still do activities but it’s difficult to get the information out, so young people worry about their sexual health and can’t get the confirmation needed for their questions.
Young people don’t want to be seen going to a pharmacy and getting contraception, at risk of being seen by members of the community. They preferred seeing a midwife, discreetly, and to obtain their contraception privately. Young people often also can’t afford the contraception in the clinics and pharmacies.
It would be much easier for us to have a specific place to hold events with the midwives who could then explain things to young people. A lot of the teenagers here still aren’t connected to the internet and active on social media. Others work all day and can’t look at their phones, and announcements get lost when they look at all their messages at night. Being on the ground is the best way for us to connect to young people.”