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Latest stories from IPPF

Spotlight

A selection of stories from across the Federation

Humanitarian response team, Fiji.
Story

In pictures: Humanitarian photographers share their experiences of storytelling in the field

IPPF’s localized approach to humanitarian emergencies is led by our Member Associations' response teams and whenever possible, we deploy local photographers.
Amani is a 24 year old midwife and volunteer peer educator with the Palestinian Family Planning and Protection Agency.
story

| 03 April 2019

"The students don’t normally ask about abortion as it is such a taboo"

Women and girls in Palestine face a number of difficulties and challenges. The ongoing conflict and lack of sitting government as well as high unemployment, has led to poverty and inequality, while an increasingly conservative society and traditionally patriarchal culture has led to increased gender-inequality and lack of access to sexual and reproductive healthcare. The current abortion law unfairly pushes women to risk their lives and health to attempt to end their unwanted pregnancies in unsafe ways. In this context, the Palestinian Family Planning and Protection Agency (PFPPA) has been working since 1964, to provide sexual and reproductive healthcare and advocate for women’s rights. Having received two grants from Safe Abortion Action Fund (SAAF) since 2014, they have been working on the lack of access to safe abortion in the country with a focus on increasing their provision of abortion-related services and advocating at community and national level for changes to the abortion law.  My name is Amani and I am 24 years old. I live with my parents in Bethlehem in the West Bank and I work as a midwife in a family hospital in Jerusalem as well as a peer education volunteer with the Palestinian Family Planning and Protection Agency.  Working in schools Part of my role as a volunteer involves going to schools and doing presentations about early-marriage, family planning and gender-based violence. Even though sex outside of marriage is taboo, it does happen. However, it is very hard for unmarried people to access contraception as the culture is so restrictive, especially here in Hebron. When they need contraception, the man usually goes by himself or they look online.  When we go to schools and talk to students about the subject of sexual health, the students want to know more because at home it is a taboo to talk about such things. We get many questions about issues such as masturbation or what causes pregnancy. They just know that it happens when men and women are together, they do not know how it happens. So people may ask a question like: ‘if I touch somebody, if I stand near someone or kiss them will I get pregnant?’ Abortion is still a taboo The students don’t normally ask about abortion as it is such a taboo. I do know that unsafe abortion happens though, for example my grandmother tried to end her pregnancy once. She was forty-five years old and had six children already. She did not know any way of not getting pregnant or safely ending the pregnancy. She told me that she drank liquids and jumped from the stairs, taking a great risk. She really didn’t want to be pregnant again and tried hard to end it but it did not work.  I am very proud that as a peer educator I have expanded my knowledge on many issues, including how to provide harm reduction information to women so that they can reduce risks of unsafe abortion and not do what my grandmother did in case they don’t want to be pregnant.   Once I met with a woman who already had six children, she was tired of having children but her husband wanted to have more so we visited them at home and through conversation, the husband understood the need, so she was able to access an IUD. Here we work a lot with women, we change them, we speak with them, they change their opinions, they become decision-makers and they leave the clinic as different people.  Read more stories from SAAF in Palestine

Amani is a 24 year old midwife and volunteer peer educator with the Palestinian Family Planning and Protection Agency.
story

| 28 May 2022

"The students don’t normally ask about abortion as it is such a taboo"

Women and girls in Palestine face a number of difficulties and challenges. The ongoing conflict and lack of sitting government as well as high unemployment, has led to poverty and inequality, while an increasingly conservative society and traditionally patriarchal culture has led to increased gender-inequality and lack of access to sexual and reproductive healthcare. The current abortion law unfairly pushes women to risk their lives and health to attempt to end their unwanted pregnancies in unsafe ways. In this context, the Palestinian Family Planning and Protection Agency (PFPPA) has been working since 1964, to provide sexual and reproductive healthcare and advocate for women’s rights. Having received two grants from Safe Abortion Action Fund (SAAF) since 2014, they have been working on the lack of access to safe abortion in the country with a focus on increasing their provision of abortion-related services and advocating at community and national level for changes to the abortion law.  My name is Amani and I am 24 years old. I live with my parents in Bethlehem in the West Bank and I work as a midwife in a family hospital in Jerusalem as well as a peer education volunteer with the Palestinian Family Planning and Protection Agency.  Working in schools Part of my role as a volunteer involves going to schools and doing presentations about early-marriage, family planning and gender-based violence. Even though sex outside of marriage is taboo, it does happen. However, it is very hard for unmarried people to access contraception as the culture is so restrictive, especially here in Hebron. When they need contraception, the man usually goes by himself or they look online.  When we go to schools and talk to students about the subject of sexual health, the students want to know more because at home it is a taboo to talk about such things. We get many questions about issues such as masturbation or what causes pregnancy. They just know that it happens when men and women are together, they do not know how it happens. So people may ask a question like: ‘if I touch somebody, if I stand near someone or kiss them will I get pregnant?’ Abortion is still a taboo The students don’t normally ask about abortion as it is such a taboo. I do know that unsafe abortion happens though, for example my grandmother tried to end her pregnancy once. She was forty-five years old and had six children already. She did not know any way of not getting pregnant or safely ending the pregnancy. She told me that she drank liquids and jumped from the stairs, taking a great risk. She really didn’t want to be pregnant again and tried hard to end it but it did not work.  I am very proud that as a peer educator I have expanded my knowledge on many issues, including how to provide harm reduction information to women so that they can reduce risks of unsafe abortion and not do what my grandmother did in case they don’t want to be pregnant.   Once I met with a woman who already had six children, she was tired of having children but her husband wanted to have more so we visited them at home and through conversation, the husband understood the need, so she was able to access an IUD. Here we work a lot with women, we change them, we speak with them, they change their opinions, they become decision-makers and they leave the clinic as different people.  Read more stories from SAAF in Palestine

Nursing Supervisor Ms. Lovely Yasmin
story

| 08 February 2018

"...now I can provide MR (menstrual regulation) services efficiently."

Menstrual regulation, the method of establishing non-pregnancy for a woman at risk of unintended pregnancy, has been a part of Bangladesh’s family planning program since 1979. It is allowed up to 10 –12 weeks after a woman’s last menstrual period. Nursing Supervisor Ms. Lovely Yasmin is one of several staff members providing family planning, menstrual regulation, and post-procedure care services at Upzila Health Complex in Belkuchi, Bangladesh. “Before this training we used to sometimes advise people on such services and provided menstrual regulation (MR) services but after the training I’ve have become and confident and efficient in providing MR services,” she says. “Earlier there could possibly have been mistake but now I can provide MR services efficiently and perfectly. I can now provide MR services in more organized manner.” But while Yasmin, who has worked in family planning for 16 years, says that the recent training has increased her confidence in properly doing MR procedures, the health complex still lacks basic supplies. “There were difficulties due to limited equipment,” she says. “We sometimes have to use personal equipment.” But, she says, the presence of Kit 8 has made life easier. “Prior to this kit, many clients did not complete the full course of medical as advices due to financial issues… during floods there are many hardships including financial difficulty,” she says. “However with this kit, most of the medicines are provided and clients are easily managing on their own.”

Nursing Supervisor Ms. Lovely Yasmin
story

| 28 May 2022

"...now I can provide MR (menstrual regulation) services efficiently."

Menstrual regulation, the method of establishing non-pregnancy for a woman at risk of unintended pregnancy, has been a part of Bangladesh’s family planning program since 1979. It is allowed up to 10 –12 weeks after a woman’s last menstrual period. Nursing Supervisor Ms. Lovely Yasmin is one of several staff members providing family planning, menstrual regulation, and post-procedure care services at Upzila Health Complex in Belkuchi, Bangladesh. “Before this training we used to sometimes advise people on such services and provided menstrual regulation (MR) services but after the training I’ve have become and confident and efficient in providing MR services,” she says. “Earlier there could possibly have been mistake but now I can provide MR services efficiently and perfectly. I can now provide MR services in more organized manner.” But while Yasmin, who has worked in family planning for 16 years, says that the recent training has increased her confidence in properly doing MR procedures, the health complex still lacks basic supplies. “There were difficulties due to limited equipment,” she says. “We sometimes have to use personal equipment.” But, she says, the presence of Kit 8 has made life easier. “Prior to this kit, many clients did not complete the full course of medical as advices due to financial issues… during floods there are many hardships including financial difficulty,” she says. “However with this kit, most of the medicines are provided and clients are easily managing on their own.”

Client at the hospital
story

| 08 February 2018

“After the menstrual regulations services I was prescribed a few medicines which I could not buy due to poor financial condition”

Menstrual regulation, the method of establishing non-pregnancy for a woman at risk of unintended pregnancy, has been a part of Bangladesh’s family planning program since 1979. It is allowed up to 10 –12 weeks after a woman’s last menstrual period. When Shana Khatun, a mother of three, became pregnant again she says she began to feel very weak and had issues with massive bleeding.Citing her age and the possibility of further medical complications, Khatun decided to undergo a menstrual regulation procedure. “But if the hospital and services weren’t there then I would have had to have continued with my pregnancy, even when (I do) not want another child” she says. Khatun says that the procedure went well, but that without the presence of medicine found in Kit 8 she would have lacked post-operation medicine. “After the menstrual regulations services I was prescribed a few medicines which I could not buy due to poor financial condition,” she says. “But the hospital gave me a number of medicines that I could take.” And while Khatun had talked with women about various family planning methods, she didn’t feel she could talk with anyone aside from her husband about getting the procedure. “I feared they would treat me poorly (the hospital),” she says. But Kahtun says she found the hospital trustworthy and helpful, even when she was suffering complications such as mass bleeding. “I will be very cautious that I should not get pregnant again however in event if I get pregnant again then I will come to this hospital only,” she says.

Client at the hospital
story

| 28 May 2022

“After the menstrual regulations services I was prescribed a few medicines which I could not buy due to poor financial condition”

Menstrual regulation, the method of establishing non-pregnancy for a woman at risk of unintended pregnancy, has been a part of Bangladesh’s family planning program since 1979. It is allowed up to 10 –12 weeks after a woman’s last menstrual period. When Shana Khatun, a mother of three, became pregnant again she says she began to feel very weak and had issues with massive bleeding.Citing her age and the possibility of further medical complications, Khatun decided to undergo a menstrual regulation procedure. “But if the hospital and services weren’t there then I would have had to have continued with my pregnancy, even when (I do) not want another child” she says. Khatun says that the procedure went well, but that without the presence of medicine found in Kit 8 she would have lacked post-operation medicine. “After the menstrual regulations services I was prescribed a few medicines which I could not buy due to poor financial condition,” she says. “But the hospital gave me a number of medicines that I could take.” And while Khatun had talked with women about various family planning methods, she didn’t feel she could talk with anyone aside from her husband about getting the procedure. “I feared they would treat me poorly (the hospital),” she says. But Kahtun says she found the hospital trustworthy and helpful, even when she was suffering complications such as mass bleeding. “I will be very cautious that I should not get pregnant again however in event if I get pregnant again then I will come to this hospital only,” she says.

Auliya Khatun, 40, of Village Chandangatti, Union Daulatpur, at her home
story

| 08 February 2018

“My spouse was supportive and he gave me the freedom to come to this decision myself”

Menstrual regulation, the method of establishing non-pregnancy for a woman at risk of unintended pregnancy, has been a part of Bangladesh’s family planning program since 1979. It is allowed up to 10 –12 weeks after a woman’s last menstrual period. Auliya Khatun, a mother of three children, was 40 years old when she found out that she had unintentionally become pregnant again. Khatun says she had heard about family planning services and menstrual regulation services available at the Upzila Health Complex from other women in her small village. She discussed the option of undergoing menstrual regulation with her husband. “My spouse was supportive and he gave me the freedom to come to this decision myself,” Khatun says. “If this service was not available then I would have carried on with the pregnancy. It would have been embarrassing, though,” she explains. “It is embarrassing to have another child at this age.” Khatun, who sometimes assists her husband with work in a local handloom, also cited the financial burden another child would have on her family. “We are facing financial difficulty so it is not possible to have another child.” Khatun says she only experienced mild gastric discomfort after the procedure but felt assured about her recovery due to being able to check-in with doctors at the local health centre. The access to the services and doctors, she says, was a major factor in a smooth and easy recovery. “Since this service was in a government facility I could prevail [through] this and survive,” she says. “It is an important service.”  

Auliya Khatun, 40, of Village Chandangatti, Union Daulatpur, at her home
story

| 28 May 2022

“My spouse was supportive and he gave me the freedom to come to this decision myself”

Menstrual regulation, the method of establishing non-pregnancy for a woman at risk of unintended pregnancy, has been a part of Bangladesh’s family planning program since 1979. It is allowed up to 10 –12 weeks after a woman’s last menstrual period. Auliya Khatun, a mother of three children, was 40 years old when she found out that she had unintentionally become pregnant again. Khatun says she had heard about family planning services and menstrual regulation services available at the Upzila Health Complex from other women in her small village. She discussed the option of undergoing menstrual regulation with her husband. “My spouse was supportive and he gave me the freedom to come to this decision myself,” Khatun says. “If this service was not available then I would have carried on with the pregnancy. It would have been embarrassing, though,” she explains. “It is embarrassing to have another child at this age.” Khatun, who sometimes assists her husband with work in a local handloom, also cited the financial burden another child would have on her family. “We are facing financial difficulty so it is not possible to have another child.” Khatun says she only experienced mild gastric discomfort after the procedure but felt assured about her recovery due to being able to check-in with doctors at the local health centre. The access to the services and doctors, she says, was a major factor in a smooth and easy recovery. “Since this service was in a government facility I could prevail [through] this and survive,” she says. “It is an important service.”  

Pretty Lynn, a sex worker and beneficiary of the Little Mermaids Bureau project, at the LMB office in Kampala, Uganda.
story

| 21 May 2017

A graduate in need turns to sex work

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. One such organisation which received support under the last round of funding is called Lady Mermaid's Bureau. I am Pretty Lynn, aged 25. I am a sex worker but I went to university. I graduated with a Bachelor's Degree in Tourism in 2013. But now, during the day I’m sleeping and during the night I’m working. That is how my day goes every day. I got into sex work through friends. Okay it is not good but I am earning.  I tried to get a job when I graduated. I have been applying since I graduated in 2013. I’m still applying but I’m not getting anywhere. You know to get jobs in Uganda; you have to know someone there and no one knows me there. To be a sex worker is like a curse. People look at you like, I don’t know, as someone that has no use in society. People look at you in a bad way. They even don’t consider why you are selling. They just see you as the worst thing that can happen in the society. So it is not comfortable, it is really hard but we try and survive. The fact sex working is illegal means you have to hide yourself when you are selling so that police cannot take you. And then you get diseases, men don’t want to pay. When the police come and take us, sometimes they even use us and don’t pay. So it is really hard. They want a free service. Like if they come and take you and pay that would be fair. But they say it is illegal to sell yourself. But they still use you yet they are saying it is illegal. You can’t report the police because there is no evidence.  Abortion and unwanted pregnancies are really common because men don’t want to use condoms and female condoms are really rare and they are expensive. Though at times we get female condoms from Lady Marmaid’s Bureau (LMB) because there are so many of us they can’t keep on giving you them all the time. At times when we get pregnant we use local methods. You can go and use local herbs but it is not safe. One time I used local herbs and I was successful. Then the other time I used Omo washing powder and tea leaves but it was really hard for me. I almost died. I had a friend who died last year from this. But the good thing is that LMB taught us about safe abortion. I have had a safe abortion too. There are some tabs they are called Miso (misoprostol). It costs about fifty thousand shillings (£10 pounds or $20.) It is a lot of money. But if I’m working and I know I’m pregnant, I can say, "this week I’m working for my safe abortion". So if I’m working for twenty thousand, by the end of the week I will have the money. It is expensive compared to Omo at five hundred shillings but that is risky. So if I say I will work this whole week for Miso (misoprostol) it is better. But I'm working and I'm not eating. A project like this one from Lady Mermaid's can help young girls and women. But to take us from sex work, it would really be hard. They would not have enough money to cater for all of us. So what they have to do is to teach us how to protect ourselves, how to defend ourselves. Safe abortion yes. They will just have to sensitise us more about our lives, protection, female condoms and all that. I don't have a boyfriend but maybe when I get money and leave this job I will. But for now, no man would like a woman who sells. No man will bear the wife selling herself. And that will happen only if I get funds, settle somewhere else and become responsible woman. I don’t want this job. I don’t want to be in this business of sex work all the time. I want be married, with my children happily, not selling myself. Stories Read more stories about the amazing success of SAAF in Uganda

Pretty Lynn, a sex worker and beneficiary of the Little Mermaids Bureau project, at the LMB office in Kampala, Uganda.
story

| 28 May 2022

A graduate in need turns to sex work

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. One such organisation which received support under the last round of funding is called Lady Mermaid's Bureau. I am Pretty Lynn, aged 25. I am a sex worker but I went to university. I graduated with a Bachelor's Degree in Tourism in 2013. But now, during the day I’m sleeping and during the night I’m working. That is how my day goes every day. I got into sex work through friends. Okay it is not good but I am earning.  I tried to get a job when I graduated. I have been applying since I graduated in 2013. I’m still applying but I’m not getting anywhere. You know to get jobs in Uganda; you have to know someone there and no one knows me there. To be a sex worker is like a curse. People look at you like, I don’t know, as someone that has no use in society. People look at you in a bad way. They even don’t consider why you are selling. They just see you as the worst thing that can happen in the society. So it is not comfortable, it is really hard but we try and survive. The fact sex working is illegal means you have to hide yourself when you are selling so that police cannot take you. And then you get diseases, men don’t want to pay. When the police come and take us, sometimes they even use us and don’t pay. So it is really hard. They want a free service. Like if they come and take you and pay that would be fair. But they say it is illegal to sell yourself. But they still use you yet they are saying it is illegal. You can’t report the police because there is no evidence.  Abortion and unwanted pregnancies are really common because men don’t want to use condoms and female condoms are really rare and they are expensive. Though at times we get female condoms from Lady Marmaid’s Bureau (LMB) because there are so many of us they can’t keep on giving you them all the time. At times when we get pregnant we use local methods. You can go and use local herbs but it is not safe. One time I used local herbs and I was successful. Then the other time I used Omo washing powder and tea leaves but it was really hard for me. I almost died. I had a friend who died last year from this. But the good thing is that LMB taught us about safe abortion. I have had a safe abortion too. There are some tabs they are called Miso (misoprostol). It costs about fifty thousand shillings (£10 pounds or $20.) It is a lot of money. But if I’m working and I know I’m pregnant, I can say, "this week I’m working for my safe abortion". So if I’m working for twenty thousand, by the end of the week I will have the money. It is expensive compared to Omo at five hundred shillings but that is risky. So if I say I will work this whole week for Miso (misoprostol) it is better. But I'm working and I'm not eating. A project like this one from Lady Mermaid's can help young girls and women. But to take us from sex work, it would really be hard. They would not have enough money to cater for all of us. So what they have to do is to teach us how to protect ourselves, how to defend ourselves. Safe abortion yes. They will just have to sensitise us more about our lives, protection, female condoms and all that. I don't have a boyfriend but maybe when I get money and leave this job I will. But for now, no man would like a woman who sells. No man will bear the wife selling herself. And that will happen only if I get funds, settle somewhere else and become responsible woman. I don’t want this job. I don’t want to be in this business of sex work all the time. I want be married, with my children happily, not selling myself. Stories Read more stories about the amazing success of SAAF in Uganda

A volunteer for IPPF's grassroots safe abortion project in Uganda
story

| 20 May 2017

Tackling taboos about abortion

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. One such organisation which received support under the last round of funding is called Volunteers for Development Association Uganda (VODA). Teachers and community volunteers provide support for young people in schools. They are critical in reshaping the social norms and stigma surrounding teen pregnancies. For many young girls, an unwanted pregnancy can limit their education and significantly restrict their life options. In Uganda, teachers are now helping to provide counselling for girls on contraception and safe abortion. Prior to VODA working with schools to provide teachers with training, the rate of deaths from unsafe abortion was significantly high. This was even the case in primary schools. Now the prevalence of unwanted pregnancies has dropped and girls are more aware of their sexual and reproductive health. I’m Deborah. I’m 27-years-old and I'm a teacher as well as being a community volunteer with VODA Uganda. There is a problem with unsafe abortion and teenage pregnancies in this area. Young girls have been getting pregnant and some of them have been dropping out of school. Some have even died because of unsafe abortions. When VODA came in, they taught us about teenage pregnancies and unsafe abortion. So we came in to teach young people in the villages so that they can be aware of these issues. Many girls secretly use injectable contraceptives after being told to do so by their parents. When these parents realise that their daughters are sexually active, they fear that they could get pregnant before they complete school. They do it secretly because they fear stigma. They do it that way to avoid rumours that may circulate if they know that one’s daughter was taken for family planning while she is still at school. Many people in our community think that a teenager who is on contraceptives is spoilt. When I had just come to this area, incidents of unsafe abortion were high. But when I began working here and the girls came to know about me, I began counselling them about safe sex, contraceptives and condoms. I told them that if you think you cannot have protected sex, then you need to use contraceptives. But we also warned them against sexually transmitted infections. Using contraception has reduced the number of girls engaging in unsafe abortion. There are different local methods used to abort. Some of them would get complications that needed medical attention after trying these methods. Some would also secretly try to go to health centres after the abortion had gone wrongly or they had even nearly died. Now some of those that have unwanted pregnancies do approach me and I counsel them. In the past, if one talked about abortion or unwanted pregnancies, I would harshly judge her saying that she wanted it. But having become a volunteer with VODA I have learned sometimes the pregnancies are due to defilement or rape, so I came to understand that not all those that get pregnant want to have a child.  Sometimes abortion is inevitable. For example, when a girl has been raped by her father, uncle, brothers or close relatives. How would a girl carry that baby? It is very important to educate young people about unsafe abortion, especially when they have reached that stage when they can get pregnant. That will help them to prevent having unwanted pregnancies and also to avoid unsafe abortion. It is important to give young girls contraceptives because some will have premarital sex. So such girls must have contraceptives if they are to avoid getting pregnant. I am Mily and I am 38-years-old. I am a volunteer for VODA Uganda and a teacher at a primary school in Kasawo. I have been teaching here for eight years. Before VODA was here, there were a lot of school dropouts from girls. They were getting unwanted pregnancies whereby they were forced to leave school. There was no one to counsel them. They were using local medicines for unsafe abortion. But when VODA came in they started to advise about unsafe abortion. We are working together with doctors and nurses from various hospitals so girls could get good care.   VODA workers approached us and explained how it could help our children to stay in school. Then we had a workshop and our head teacher selected who would manage this. Before VODA came in unsafe abortion was rampant. Many of the girls were dying. Here at this school we had a girl in P4 - we were not even expecting that girl could be pregnant. Unfortunately, we heard about it when the girl was already dead. She was trying to have an unsafe abortion.  Before VODA came, there was no sexuality education or counselling to do with STIs. That is why our children were dying because they feared to tell their parents. We thought that pregnant girls should leave school without further assistance. But as a volunteer, I thank VODA because now I know that that girls can be helped and they can continue with their studies. I am Frida and I'm 18-years-old. I am a peer counsellor at school and have counselled many girls about unsafe abortion. I came to know about VODA on a careers day at school and by attending training workshops on unsafe abortion. At our school, I’m very well-known as a youth counsellor. I help other girls who are sexually active with unwanted pregnancies. The training I received from VODA has given me self-confidence. Before, I couldn’t stand in public. But now I can stand in the presence of even one thousand people and I can talk. I’m not shy anymore. The problems are that girls can't access services like post-abortion care and family planning, like the pill. Girls are poor. Some services need money yet some girls don’t have money. They are getting pregnant because they have less information about unprotected sex and they are sexually active. To help them there needs to be places where they can find such services. From my training with VODA I now want to be a social worker so that I can work with people. I have realised that I can handle people well. Stories Read more stories about the amazing success of SAAF in Uganda

A volunteer for IPPF's grassroots safe abortion project in Uganda
story

| 28 May 2022

Tackling taboos about abortion

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. One such organisation which received support under the last round of funding is called Volunteers for Development Association Uganda (VODA). Teachers and community volunteers provide support for young people in schools. They are critical in reshaping the social norms and stigma surrounding teen pregnancies. For many young girls, an unwanted pregnancy can limit their education and significantly restrict their life options. In Uganda, teachers are now helping to provide counselling for girls on contraception and safe abortion. Prior to VODA working with schools to provide teachers with training, the rate of deaths from unsafe abortion was significantly high. This was even the case in primary schools. Now the prevalence of unwanted pregnancies has dropped and girls are more aware of their sexual and reproductive health. I’m Deborah. I’m 27-years-old and I'm a teacher as well as being a community volunteer with VODA Uganda. There is a problem with unsafe abortion and teenage pregnancies in this area. Young girls have been getting pregnant and some of them have been dropping out of school. Some have even died because of unsafe abortions. When VODA came in, they taught us about teenage pregnancies and unsafe abortion. So we came in to teach young people in the villages so that they can be aware of these issues. Many girls secretly use injectable contraceptives after being told to do so by their parents. When these parents realise that their daughters are sexually active, they fear that they could get pregnant before they complete school. They do it secretly because they fear stigma. They do it that way to avoid rumours that may circulate if they know that one’s daughter was taken for family planning while she is still at school. Many people in our community think that a teenager who is on contraceptives is spoilt. When I had just come to this area, incidents of unsafe abortion were high. But when I began working here and the girls came to know about me, I began counselling them about safe sex, contraceptives and condoms. I told them that if you think you cannot have protected sex, then you need to use contraceptives. But we also warned them against sexually transmitted infections. Using contraception has reduced the number of girls engaging in unsafe abortion. There are different local methods used to abort. Some of them would get complications that needed medical attention after trying these methods. Some would also secretly try to go to health centres after the abortion had gone wrongly or they had even nearly died. Now some of those that have unwanted pregnancies do approach me and I counsel them. In the past, if one talked about abortion or unwanted pregnancies, I would harshly judge her saying that she wanted it. But having become a volunteer with VODA I have learned sometimes the pregnancies are due to defilement or rape, so I came to understand that not all those that get pregnant want to have a child.  Sometimes abortion is inevitable. For example, when a girl has been raped by her father, uncle, brothers or close relatives. How would a girl carry that baby? It is very important to educate young people about unsafe abortion, especially when they have reached that stage when they can get pregnant. That will help them to prevent having unwanted pregnancies and also to avoid unsafe abortion. It is important to give young girls contraceptives because some will have premarital sex. So such girls must have contraceptives if they are to avoid getting pregnant. I am Mily and I am 38-years-old. I am a volunteer for VODA Uganda and a teacher at a primary school in Kasawo. I have been teaching here for eight years. Before VODA was here, there were a lot of school dropouts from girls. They were getting unwanted pregnancies whereby they were forced to leave school. There was no one to counsel them. They were using local medicines for unsafe abortion. But when VODA came in they started to advise about unsafe abortion. We are working together with doctors and nurses from various hospitals so girls could get good care.   VODA workers approached us and explained how it could help our children to stay in school. Then we had a workshop and our head teacher selected who would manage this. Before VODA came in unsafe abortion was rampant. Many of the girls were dying. Here at this school we had a girl in P4 - we were not even expecting that girl could be pregnant. Unfortunately, we heard about it when the girl was already dead. She was trying to have an unsafe abortion.  Before VODA came, there was no sexuality education or counselling to do with STIs. That is why our children were dying because they feared to tell their parents. We thought that pregnant girls should leave school without further assistance. But as a volunteer, I thank VODA because now I know that that girls can be helped and they can continue with their studies. I am Frida and I'm 18-years-old. I am a peer counsellor at school and have counselled many girls about unsafe abortion. I came to know about VODA on a careers day at school and by attending training workshops on unsafe abortion. At our school, I’m very well-known as a youth counsellor. I help other girls who are sexually active with unwanted pregnancies. The training I received from VODA has given me self-confidence. Before, I couldn’t stand in public. But now I can stand in the presence of even one thousand people and I can talk. I’m not shy anymore. The problems are that girls can't access services like post-abortion care and family planning, like the pill. Girls are poor. Some services need money yet some girls don’t have money. They are getting pregnant because they have less information about unprotected sex and they are sexually active. To help them there needs to be places where they can find such services. From my training with VODA I now want to be a social worker so that I can work with people. I have realised that I can handle people well. Stories Read more stories about the amazing success of SAAF in Uganda

Amani is a 24 year old midwife and volunteer peer educator with the Palestinian Family Planning and Protection Agency.
story

| 03 April 2019

"The students don’t normally ask about abortion as it is such a taboo"

Women and girls in Palestine face a number of difficulties and challenges. The ongoing conflict and lack of sitting government as well as high unemployment, has led to poverty and inequality, while an increasingly conservative society and traditionally patriarchal culture has led to increased gender-inequality and lack of access to sexual and reproductive healthcare. The current abortion law unfairly pushes women to risk their lives and health to attempt to end their unwanted pregnancies in unsafe ways. In this context, the Palestinian Family Planning and Protection Agency (PFPPA) has been working since 1964, to provide sexual and reproductive healthcare and advocate for women’s rights. Having received two grants from Safe Abortion Action Fund (SAAF) since 2014, they have been working on the lack of access to safe abortion in the country with a focus on increasing their provision of abortion-related services and advocating at community and national level for changes to the abortion law.  My name is Amani and I am 24 years old. I live with my parents in Bethlehem in the West Bank and I work as a midwife in a family hospital in Jerusalem as well as a peer education volunteer with the Palestinian Family Planning and Protection Agency.  Working in schools Part of my role as a volunteer involves going to schools and doing presentations about early-marriage, family planning and gender-based violence. Even though sex outside of marriage is taboo, it does happen. However, it is very hard for unmarried people to access contraception as the culture is so restrictive, especially here in Hebron. When they need contraception, the man usually goes by himself or they look online.  When we go to schools and talk to students about the subject of sexual health, the students want to know more because at home it is a taboo to talk about such things. We get many questions about issues such as masturbation or what causes pregnancy. They just know that it happens when men and women are together, they do not know how it happens. So people may ask a question like: ‘if I touch somebody, if I stand near someone or kiss them will I get pregnant?’ Abortion is still a taboo The students don’t normally ask about abortion as it is such a taboo. I do know that unsafe abortion happens though, for example my grandmother tried to end her pregnancy once. She was forty-five years old and had six children already. She did not know any way of not getting pregnant or safely ending the pregnancy. She told me that she drank liquids and jumped from the stairs, taking a great risk. She really didn’t want to be pregnant again and tried hard to end it but it did not work.  I am very proud that as a peer educator I have expanded my knowledge on many issues, including how to provide harm reduction information to women so that they can reduce risks of unsafe abortion and not do what my grandmother did in case they don’t want to be pregnant.   Once I met with a woman who already had six children, she was tired of having children but her husband wanted to have more so we visited them at home and through conversation, the husband understood the need, so she was able to access an IUD. Here we work a lot with women, we change them, we speak with them, they change their opinions, they become decision-makers and they leave the clinic as different people.  Read more stories from SAAF in Palestine

Amani is a 24 year old midwife and volunteer peer educator with the Palestinian Family Planning and Protection Agency.
story

| 28 May 2022

"The students don’t normally ask about abortion as it is such a taboo"

Women and girls in Palestine face a number of difficulties and challenges. The ongoing conflict and lack of sitting government as well as high unemployment, has led to poverty and inequality, while an increasingly conservative society and traditionally patriarchal culture has led to increased gender-inequality and lack of access to sexual and reproductive healthcare. The current abortion law unfairly pushes women to risk their lives and health to attempt to end their unwanted pregnancies in unsafe ways. In this context, the Palestinian Family Planning and Protection Agency (PFPPA) has been working since 1964, to provide sexual and reproductive healthcare and advocate for women’s rights. Having received two grants from Safe Abortion Action Fund (SAAF) since 2014, they have been working on the lack of access to safe abortion in the country with a focus on increasing their provision of abortion-related services and advocating at community and national level for changes to the abortion law.  My name is Amani and I am 24 years old. I live with my parents in Bethlehem in the West Bank and I work as a midwife in a family hospital in Jerusalem as well as a peer education volunteer with the Palestinian Family Planning and Protection Agency.  Working in schools Part of my role as a volunteer involves going to schools and doing presentations about early-marriage, family planning and gender-based violence. Even though sex outside of marriage is taboo, it does happen. However, it is very hard for unmarried people to access contraception as the culture is so restrictive, especially here in Hebron. When they need contraception, the man usually goes by himself or they look online.  When we go to schools and talk to students about the subject of sexual health, the students want to know more because at home it is a taboo to talk about such things. We get many questions about issues such as masturbation or what causes pregnancy. They just know that it happens when men and women are together, they do not know how it happens. So people may ask a question like: ‘if I touch somebody, if I stand near someone or kiss them will I get pregnant?’ Abortion is still a taboo The students don’t normally ask about abortion as it is such a taboo. I do know that unsafe abortion happens though, for example my grandmother tried to end her pregnancy once. She was forty-five years old and had six children already. She did not know any way of not getting pregnant or safely ending the pregnancy. She told me that she drank liquids and jumped from the stairs, taking a great risk. She really didn’t want to be pregnant again and tried hard to end it but it did not work.  I am very proud that as a peer educator I have expanded my knowledge on many issues, including how to provide harm reduction information to women so that they can reduce risks of unsafe abortion and not do what my grandmother did in case they don’t want to be pregnant.   Once I met with a woman who already had six children, she was tired of having children but her husband wanted to have more so we visited them at home and through conversation, the husband understood the need, so she was able to access an IUD. Here we work a lot with women, we change them, we speak with them, they change their opinions, they become decision-makers and they leave the clinic as different people.  Read more stories from SAAF in Palestine

Nursing Supervisor Ms. Lovely Yasmin
story

| 08 February 2018

"...now I can provide MR (menstrual regulation) services efficiently."

Menstrual regulation, the method of establishing non-pregnancy for a woman at risk of unintended pregnancy, has been a part of Bangladesh’s family planning program since 1979. It is allowed up to 10 –12 weeks after a woman’s last menstrual period. Nursing Supervisor Ms. Lovely Yasmin is one of several staff members providing family planning, menstrual regulation, and post-procedure care services at Upzila Health Complex in Belkuchi, Bangladesh. “Before this training we used to sometimes advise people on such services and provided menstrual regulation (MR) services but after the training I’ve have become and confident and efficient in providing MR services,” she says. “Earlier there could possibly have been mistake but now I can provide MR services efficiently and perfectly. I can now provide MR services in more organized manner.” But while Yasmin, who has worked in family planning for 16 years, says that the recent training has increased her confidence in properly doing MR procedures, the health complex still lacks basic supplies. “There were difficulties due to limited equipment,” she says. “We sometimes have to use personal equipment.” But, she says, the presence of Kit 8 has made life easier. “Prior to this kit, many clients did not complete the full course of medical as advices due to financial issues… during floods there are many hardships including financial difficulty,” she says. “However with this kit, most of the medicines are provided and clients are easily managing on their own.”

Nursing Supervisor Ms. Lovely Yasmin
story

| 28 May 2022

"...now I can provide MR (menstrual regulation) services efficiently."

Menstrual regulation, the method of establishing non-pregnancy for a woman at risk of unintended pregnancy, has been a part of Bangladesh’s family planning program since 1979. It is allowed up to 10 –12 weeks after a woman’s last menstrual period. Nursing Supervisor Ms. Lovely Yasmin is one of several staff members providing family planning, menstrual regulation, and post-procedure care services at Upzila Health Complex in Belkuchi, Bangladesh. “Before this training we used to sometimes advise people on such services and provided menstrual regulation (MR) services but after the training I’ve have become and confident and efficient in providing MR services,” she says. “Earlier there could possibly have been mistake but now I can provide MR services efficiently and perfectly. I can now provide MR services in more organized manner.” But while Yasmin, who has worked in family planning for 16 years, says that the recent training has increased her confidence in properly doing MR procedures, the health complex still lacks basic supplies. “There were difficulties due to limited equipment,” she says. “We sometimes have to use personal equipment.” But, she says, the presence of Kit 8 has made life easier. “Prior to this kit, many clients did not complete the full course of medical as advices due to financial issues… during floods there are many hardships including financial difficulty,” she says. “However with this kit, most of the medicines are provided and clients are easily managing on their own.”

Client at the hospital
story

| 08 February 2018

“After the menstrual regulations services I was prescribed a few medicines which I could not buy due to poor financial condition”

Menstrual regulation, the method of establishing non-pregnancy for a woman at risk of unintended pregnancy, has been a part of Bangladesh’s family planning program since 1979. It is allowed up to 10 –12 weeks after a woman’s last menstrual period. When Shana Khatun, a mother of three, became pregnant again she says she began to feel very weak and had issues with massive bleeding.Citing her age and the possibility of further medical complications, Khatun decided to undergo a menstrual regulation procedure. “But if the hospital and services weren’t there then I would have had to have continued with my pregnancy, even when (I do) not want another child” she says. Khatun says that the procedure went well, but that without the presence of medicine found in Kit 8 she would have lacked post-operation medicine. “After the menstrual regulations services I was prescribed a few medicines which I could not buy due to poor financial condition,” she says. “But the hospital gave me a number of medicines that I could take.” And while Khatun had talked with women about various family planning methods, she didn’t feel she could talk with anyone aside from her husband about getting the procedure. “I feared they would treat me poorly (the hospital),” she says. But Kahtun says she found the hospital trustworthy and helpful, even when she was suffering complications such as mass bleeding. “I will be very cautious that I should not get pregnant again however in event if I get pregnant again then I will come to this hospital only,” she says.

Client at the hospital
story

| 28 May 2022

“After the menstrual regulations services I was prescribed a few medicines which I could not buy due to poor financial condition”

Menstrual regulation, the method of establishing non-pregnancy for a woman at risk of unintended pregnancy, has been a part of Bangladesh’s family planning program since 1979. It is allowed up to 10 –12 weeks after a woman’s last menstrual period. When Shana Khatun, a mother of three, became pregnant again she says she began to feel very weak and had issues with massive bleeding.Citing her age and the possibility of further medical complications, Khatun decided to undergo a menstrual regulation procedure. “But if the hospital and services weren’t there then I would have had to have continued with my pregnancy, even when (I do) not want another child” she says. Khatun says that the procedure went well, but that without the presence of medicine found in Kit 8 she would have lacked post-operation medicine. “After the menstrual regulations services I was prescribed a few medicines which I could not buy due to poor financial condition,” she says. “But the hospital gave me a number of medicines that I could take.” And while Khatun had talked with women about various family planning methods, she didn’t feel she could talk with anyone aside from her husband about getting the procedure. “I feared they would treat me poorly (the hospital),” she says. But Kahtun says she found the hospital trustworthy and helpful, even when she was suffering complications such as mass bleeding. “I will be very cautious that I should not get pregnant again however in event if I get pregnant again then I will come to this hospital only,” she says.

Auliya Khatun, 40, of Village Chandangatti, Union Daulatpur, at her home
story

| 08 February 2018

“My spouse was supportive and he gave me the freedom to come to this decision myself”

Menstrual regulation, the method of establishing non-pregnancy for a woman at risk of unintended pregnancy, has been a part of Bangladesh’s family planning program since 1979. It is allowed up to 10 –12 weeks after a woman’s last menstrual period. Auliya Khatun, a mother of three children, was 40 years old when she found out that she had unintentionally become pregnant again. Khatun says she had heard about family planning services and menstrual regulation services available at the Upzila Health Complex from other women in her small village. She discussed the option of undergoing menstrual regulation with her husband. “My spouse was supportive and he gave me the freedom to come to this decision myself,” Khatun says. “If this service was not available then I would have carried on with the pregnancy. It would have been embarrassing, though,” she explains. “It is embarrassing to have another child at this age.” Khatun, who sometimes assists her husband with work in a local handloom, also cited the financial burden another child would have on her family. “We are facing financial difficulty so it is not possible to have another child.” Khatun says she only experienced mild gastric discomfort after the procedure but felt assured about her recovery due to being able to check-in with doctors at the local health centre. The access to the services and doctors, she says, was a major factor in a smooth and easy recovery. “Since this service was in a government facility I could prevail [through] this and survive,” she says. “It is an important service.”  

Auliya Khatun, 40, of Village Chandangatti, Union Daulatpur, at her home
story

| 28 May 2022

“My spouse was supportive and he gave me the freedom to come to this decision myself”

Menstrual regulation, the method of establishing non-pregnancy for a woman at risk of unintended pregnancy, has been a part of Bangladesh’s family planning program since 1979. It is allowed up to 10 –12 weeks after a woman’s last menstrual period. Auliya Khatun, a mother of three children, was 40 years old when she found out that she had unintentionally become pregnant again. Khatun says she had heard about family planning services and menstrual regulation services available at the Upzila Health Complex from other women in her small village. She discussed the option of undergoing menstrual regulation with her husband. “My spouse was supportive and he gave me the freedom to come to this decision myself,” Khatun says. “If this service was not available then I would have carried on with the pregnancy. It would have been embarrassing, though,” she explains. “It is embarrassing to have another child at this age.” Khatun, who sometimes assists her husband with work in a local handloom, also cited the financial burden another child would have on her family. “We are facing financial difficulty so it is not possible to have another child.” Khatun says she only experienced mild gastric discomfort after the procedure but felt assured about her recovery due to being able to check-in with doctors at the local health centre. The access to the services and doctors, she says, was a major factor in a smooth and easy recovery. “Since this service was in a government facility I could prevail [through] this and survive,” she says. “It is an important service.”  

Pretty Lynn, a sex worker and beneficiary of the Little Mermaids Bureau project, at the LMB office in Kampala, Uganda.
story

| 21 May 2017

A graduate in need turns to sex work

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. One such organisation which received support under the last round of funding is called Lady Mermaid's Bureau. I am Pretty Lynn, aged 25. I am a sex worker but I went to university. I graduated with a Bachelor's Degree in Tourism in 2013. But now, during the day I’m sleeping and during the night I’m working. That is how my day goes every day. I got into sex work through friends. Okay it is not good but I am earning.  I tried to get a job when I graduated. I have been applying since I graduated in 2013. I’m still applying but I’m not getting anywhere. You know to get jobs in Uganda; you have to know someone there and no one knows me there. To be a sex worker is like a curse. People look at you like, I don’t know, as someone that has no use in society. People look at you in a bad way. They even don’t consider why you are selling. They just see you as the worst thing that can happen in the society. So it is not comfortable, it is really hard but we try and survive. The fact sex working is illegal means you have to hide yourself when you are selling so that police cannot take you. And then you get diseases, men don’t want to pay. When the police come and take us, sometimes they even use us and don’t pay. So it is really hard. They want a free service. Like if they come and take you and pay that would be fair. But they say it is illegal to sell yourself. But they still use you yet they are saying it is illegal. You can’t report the police because there is no evidence.  Abortion and unwanted pregnancies are really common because men don’t want to use condoms and female condoms are really rare and they are expensive. Though at times we get female condoms from Lady Marmaid’s Bureau (LMB) because there are so many of us they can’t keep on giving you them all the time. At times when we get pregnant we use local methods. You can go and use local herbs but it is not safe. One time I used local herbs and I was successful. Then the other time I used Omo washing powder and tea leaves but it was really hard for me. I almost died. I had a friend who died last year from this. But the good thing is that LMB taught us about safe abortion. I have had a safe abortion too. There are some tabs they are called Miso (misoprostol). It costs about fifty thousand shillings (£10 pounds or $20.) It is a lot of money. But if I’m working and I know I’m pregnant, I can say, "this week I’m working for my safe abortion". So if I’m working for twenty thousand, by the end of the week I will have the money. It is expensive compared to Omo at five hundred shillings but that is risky. So if I say I will work this whole week for Miso (misoprostol) it is better. But I'm working and I'm not eating. A project like this one from Lady Mermaid's can help young girls and women. But to take us from sex work, it would really be hard. They would not have enough money to cater for all of us. So what they have to do is to teach us how to protect ourselves, how to defend ourselves. Safe abortion yes. They will just have to sensitise us more about our lives, protection, female condoms and all that. I don't have a boyfriend but maybe when I get money and leave this job I will. But for now, no man would like a woman who sells. No man will bear the wife selling herself. And that will happen only if I get funds, settle somewhere else and become responsible woman. I don’t want this job. I don’t want to be in this business of sex work all the time. I want be married, with my children happily, not selling myself. Stories Read more stories about the amazing success of SAAF in Uganda

Pretty Lynn, a sex worker and beneficiary of the Little Mermaids Bureau project, at the LMB office in Kampala, Uganda.
story

| 28 May 2022

A graduate in need turns to sex work

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. One such organisation which received support under the last round of funding is called Lady Mermaid's Bureau. I am Pretty Lynn, aged 25. I am a sex worker but I went to university. I graduated with a Bachelor's Degree in Tourism in 2013. But now, during the day I’m sleeping and during the night I’m working. That is how my day goes every day. I got into sex work through friends. Okay it is not good but I am earning.  I tried to get a job when I graduated. I have been applying since I graduated in 2013. I’m still applying but I’m not getting anywhere. You know to get jobs in Uganda; you have to know someone there and no one knows me there. To be a sex worker is like a curse. People look at you like, I don’t know, as someone that has no use in society. People look at you in a bad way. They even don’t consider why you are selling. They just see you as the worst thing that can happen in the society. So it is not comfortable, it is really hard but we try and survive. The fact sex working is illegal means you have to hide yourself when you are selling so that police cannot take you. And then you get diseases, men don’t want to pay. When the police come and take us, sometimes they even use us and don’t pay. So it is really hard. They want a free service. Like if they come and take you and pay that would be fair. But they say it is illegal to sell yourself. But they still use you yet they are saying it is illegal. You can’t report the police because there is no evidence.  Abortion and unwanted pregnancies are really common because men don’t want to use condoms and female condoms are really rare and they are expensive. Though at times we get female condoms from Lady Marmaid’s Bureau (LMB) because there are so many of us they can’t keep on giving you them all the time. At times when we get pregnant we use local methods. You can go and use local herbs but it is not safe. One time I used local herbs and I was successful. Then the other time I used Omo washing powder and tea leaves but it was really hard for me. I almost died. I had a friend who died last year from this. But the good thing is that LMB taught us about safe abortion. I have had a safe abortion too. There are some tabs they are called Miso (misoprostol). It costs about fifty thousand shillings (£10 pounds or $20.) It is a lot of money. But if I’m working and I know I’m pregnant, I can say, "this week I’m working for my safe abortion". So if I’m working for twenty thousand, by the end of the week I will have the money. It is expensive compared to Omo at five hundred shillings but that is risky. So if I say I will work this whole week for Miso (misoprostol) it is better. But I'm working and I'm not eating. A project like this one from Lady Mermaid's can help young girls and women. But to take us from sex work, it would really be hard. They would not have enough money to cater for all of us. So what they have to do is to teach us how to protect ourselves, how to defend ourselves. Safe abortion yes. They will just have to sensitise us more about our lives, protection, female condoms and all that. I don't have a boyfriend but maybe when I get money and leave this job I will. But for now, no man would like a woman who sells. No man will bear the wife selling herself. And that will happen only if I get funds, settle somewhere else and become responsible woman. I don’t want this job. I don’t want to be in this business of sex work all the time. I want be married, with my children happily, not selling myself. Stories Read more stories about the amazing success of SAAF in Uganda

A volunteer for IPPF's grassroots safe abortion project in Uganda
story

| 20 May 2017

Tackling taboos about abortion

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. One such organisation which received support under the last round of funding is called Volunteers for Development Association Uganda (VODA). Teachers and community volunteers provide support for young people in schools. They are critical in reshaping the social norms and stigma surrounding teen pregnancies. For many young girls, an unwanted pregnancy can limit their education and significantly restrict their life options. In Uganda, teachers are now helping to provide counselling for girls on contraception and safe abortion. Prior to VODA working with schools to provide teachers with training, the rate of deaths from unsafe abortion was significantly high. This was even the case in primary schools. Now the prevalence of unwanted pregnancies has dropped and girls are more aware of their sexual and reproductive health. I’m Deborah. I’m 27-years-old and I'm a teacher as well as being a community volunteer with VODA Uganda. There is a problem with unsafe abortion and teenage pregnancies in this area. Young girls have been getting pregnant and some of them have been dropping out of school. Some have even died because of unsafe abortions. When VODA came in, they taught us about teenage pregnancies and unsafe abortion. So we came in to teach young people in the villages so that they can be aware of these issues. Many girls secretly use injectable contraceptives after being told to do so by their parents. When these parents realise that their daughters are sexually active, they fear that they could get pregnant before they complete school. They do it secretly because they fear stigma. They do it that way to avoid rumours that may circulate if they know that one’s daughter was taken for family planning while she is still at school. Many people in our community think that a teenager who is on contraceptives is spoilt. When I had just come to this area, incidents of unsafe abortion were high. But when I began working here and the girls came to know about me, I began counselling them about safe sex, contraceptives and condoms. I told them that if you think you cannot have protected sex, then you need to use contraceptives. But we also warned them against sexually transmitted infections. Using contraception has reduced the number of girls engaging in unsafe abortion. There are different local methods used to abort. Some of them would get complications that needed medical attention after trying these methods. Some would also secretly try to go to health centres after the abortion had gone wrongly or they had even nearly died. Now some of those that have unwanted pregnancies do approach me and I counsel them. In the past, if one talked about abortion or unwanted pregnancies, I would harshly judge her saying that she wanted it. But having become a volunteer with VODA I have learned sometimes the pregnancies are due to defilement or rape, so I came to understand that not all those that get pregnant want to have a child.  Sometimes abortion is inevitable. For example, when a girl has been raped by her father, uncle, brothers or close relatives. How would a girl carry that baby? It is very important to educate young people about unsafe abortion, especially when they have reached that stage when they can get pregnant. That will help them to prevent having unwanted pregnancies and also to avoid unsafe abortion. It is important to give young girls contraceptives because some will have premarital sex. So such girls must have contraceptives if they are to avoid getting pregnant. I am Mily and I am 38-years-old. I am a volunteer for VODA Uganda and a teacher at a primary school in Kasawo. I have been teaching here for eight years. Before VODA was here, there were a lot of school dropouts from girls. They were getting unwanted pregnancies whereby they were forced to leave school. There was no one to counsel them. They were using local medicines for unsafe abortion. But when VODA came in they started to advise about unsafe abortion. We are working together with doctors and nurses from various hospitals so girls could get good care.   VODA workers approached us and explained how it could help our children to stay in school. Then we had a workshop and our head teacher selected who would manage this. Before VODA came in unsafe abortion was rampant. Many of the girls were dying. Here at this school we had a girl in P4 - we were not even expecting that girl could be pregnant. Unfortunately, we heard about it when the girl was already dead. She was trying to have an unsafe abortion.  Before VODA came, there was no sexuality education or counselling to do with STIs. That is why our children were dying because they feared to tell their parents. We thought that pregnant girls should leave school without further assistance. But as a volunteer, I thank VODA because now I know that that girls can be helped and they can continue with their studies. I am Frida and I'm 18-years-old. I am a peer counsellor at school and have counselled many girls about unsafe abortion. I came to know about VODA on a careers day at school and by attending training workshops on unsafe abortion. At our school, I’m very well-known as a youth counsellor. I help other girls who are sexually active with unwanted pregnancies. The training I received from VODA has given me self-confidence. Before, I couldn’t stand in public. But now I can stand in the presence of even one thousand people and I can talk. I’m not shy anymore. The problems are that girls can't access services like post-abortion care and family planning, like the pill. Girls are poor. Some services need money yet some girls don’t have money. They are getting pregnant because they have less information about unprotected sex and they are sexually active. To help them there needs to be places where they can find such services. From my training with VODA I now want to be a social worker so that I can work with people. I have realised that I can handle people well. Stories Read more stories about the amazing success of SAAF in Uganda

A volunteer for IPPF's grassroots safe abortion project in Uganda
story

| 28 May 2022

Tackling taboos about abortion

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. One such organisation which received support under the last round of funding is called Volunteers for Development Association Uganda (VODA). Teachers and community volunteers provide support for young people in schools. They are critical in reshaping the social norms and stigma surrounding teen pregnancies. For many young girls, an unwanted pregnancy can limit their education and significantly restrict their life options. In Uganda, teachers are now helping to provide counselling for girls on contraception and safe abortion. Prior to VODA working with schools to provide teachers with training, the rate of deaths from unsafe abortion was significantly high. This was even the case in primary schools. Now the prevalence of unwanted pregnancies has dropped and girls are more aware of their sexual and reproductive health. I’m Deborah. I’m 27-years-old and I'm a teacher as well as being a community volunteer with VODA Uganda. There is a problem with unsafe abortion and teenage pregnancies in this area. Young girls have been getting pregnant and some of them have been dropping out of school. Some have even died because of unsafe abortions. When VODA came in, they taught us about teenage pregnancies and unsafe abortion. So we came in to teach young people in the villages so that they can be aware of these issues. Many girls secretly use injectable contraceptives after being told to do so by their parents. When these parents realise that their daughters are sexually active, they fear that they could get pregnant before they complete school. They do it secretly because they fear stigma. They do it that way to avoid rumours that may circulate if they know that one’s daughter was taken for family planning while she is still at school. Many people in our community think that a teenager who is on contraceptives is spoilt. When I had just come to this area, incidents of unsafe abortion were high. But when I began working here and the girls came to know about me, I began counselling them about safe sex, contraceptives and condoms. I told them that if you think you cannot have protected sex, then you need to use contraceptives. But we also warned them against sexually transmitted infections. Using contraception has reduced the number of girls engaging in unsafe abortion. There are different local methods used to abort. Some of them would get complications that needed medical attention after trying these methods. Some would also secretly try to go to health centres after the abortion had gone wrongly or they had even nearly died. Now some of those that have unwanted pregnancies do approach me and I counsel them. In the past, if one talked about abortion or unwanted pregnancies, I would harshly judge her saying that she wanted it. But having become a volunteer with VODA I have learned sometimes the pregnancies are due to defilement or rape, so I came to understand that not all those that get pregnant want to have a child.  Sometimes abortion is inevitable. For example, when a girl has been raped by her father, uncle, brothers or close relatives. How would a girl carry that baby? It is very important to educate young people about unsafe abortion, especially when they have reached that stage when they can get pregnant. That will help them to prevent having unwanted pregnancies and also to avoid unsafe abortion. It is important to give young girls contraceptives because some will have premarital sex. So such girls must have contraceptives if they are to avoid getting pregnant. I am Mily and I am 38-years-old. I am a volunteer for VODA Uganda and a teacher at a primary school in Kasawo. I have been teaching here for eight years. Before VODA was here, there were a lot of school dropouts from girls. They were getting unwanted pregnancies whereby they were forced to leave school. There was no one to counsel them. They were using local medicines for unsafe abortion. But when VODA came in they started to advise about unsafe abortion. We are working together with doctors and nurses from various hospitals so girls could get good care.   VODA workers approached us and explained how it could help our children to stay in school. Then we had a workshop and our head teacher selected who would manage this. Before VODA came in unsafe abortion was rampant. Many of the girls were dying. Here at this school we had a girl in P4 - we were not even expecting that girl could be pregnant. Unfortunately, we heard about it when the girl was already dead. She was trying to have an unsafe abortion.  Before VODA came, there was no sexuality education or counselling to do with STIs. That is why our children were dying because they feared to tell their parents. We thought that pregnant girls should leave school without further assistance. But as a volunteer, I thank VODA because now I know that that girls can be helped and they can continue with their studies. I am Frida and I'm 18-years-old. I am a peer counsellor at school and have counselled many girls about unsafe abortion. I came to know about VODA on a careers day at school and by attending training workshops on unsafe abortion. At our school, I’m very well-known as a youth counsellor. I help other girls who are sexually active with unwanted pregnancies. The training I received from VODA has given me self-confidence. Before, I couldn’t stand in public. But now I can stand in the presence of even one thousand people and I can talk. I’m not shy anymore. The problems are that girls can't access services like post-abortion care and family planning, like the pill. Girls are poor. Some services need money yet some girls don’t have money. They are getting pregnant because they have less information about unprotected sex and they are sexually active. To help them there needs to be places where they can find such services. From my training with VODA I now want to be a social worker so that I can work with people. I have realised that I can handle people well. Stories Read more stories about the amazing success of SAAF in Uganda