Young People’s Voices: Contraception in Uganda

Uganda held its 2nd National Family Planning Conference in Kampala last month. The conference was organized by the Ministry of Health (MOH) in collaboration with FP2020 donor focal points for Uganda (UNFPA, DFID, USAID), as well as World Health Organization, National Population CouncilUganda Family Planning Consortium and other development partners.

Reach A Hand Uganda took the time to talk to young people, both in and out of schools, about their views on family planning. We sought to understand their ideas about the most immediate and logical solution to demand and access to contraceptive information and services.

The demand is evidenced in the 2016 Demographic Health Survey. Among young, sexually active and unmarried women surveyed, 83% expressed that they wanted to have access to contraception. While it is plausible – based on national statistics – that 51% of those women already do have access, that leaves 32% with their demand unmet.

The youth we talked to were all in favour of universal access to both information and services around contraception and family planning. This didn’t surprise us, knowing the statistics mentioned above. With the high numbers of young people who turned up to talk to us, and the positive ambience, it was clear this topic is important to youth in Uganda.

In the video we recorded, the youth voiced a call for all those over the age of 18 to have full time access to contraception – especially condoms – because, as 20-year-old Mpagi Jamiru said, sometimes you relate with people whose lifestyles you may not know much about.

Mpagi is a mechanic, like many out-of-school young people in Uganda. He spends most of his day working at a garage in Nsambya with his friends. Beyond this, though, Mpagi is a young man who is taking his own health and safety seriously.

The best thing about using condoms is that you safeguard yourself from very many diseases”, he stressed. He urges his peers to get tested, know their status and live carefully.

We also spoke to Namara Judith, who hit the nail on the head when he said: We need family planning to help the youth because they over-play sex”.  

This is well backed up by the 2016 Demographic Health Survey which shows that those aged 15-24 are most likely to be having sex with multiple partners – at 2.7% of those surveyed (with that rate increasing to 3.3% in the sub age group of 20-24-year-olds).

Proscovia Alimo, a 19-year-old, argued that young people need extended access to other health services such as safe male circumcision on top of increased availability of family planning services.

We were delighted to find that all of the young people we talked to had heard of family planning before. It was even better to hear that some were already using different methods. This is proof that more young people than ever are making informed decisions with regards the safety of their lives.

We believe that it is only fair that a group taking their health so seriously ought to have access to the contraceptive methods and family planning information they need to keep themselves safe. 

Where are Mexican Women Getting Abortions?

If Mexico City is the only place to access abortions legally in the country, where are the other Mexican women going?

According to the Mexico City Health Secretary, between 2007 and 2017, women between 18 and 24 years old seek abortions most frequently. Of these women, 71% come from Mexico City and the Metropolitan Area, leaving only 29% of the women coming from the other states.

So, what is happening in the rest of the country? Where and how are these women ending their pregnancies?

Since 2014, there have been 182 registered deaths because of malpractice performing illegal abortions. Women in states where abortion is still not legal are forced to go to clandestine clinics – jeopardizing their own lives. Before 2007, when abortion became legal in Mexico City, 6 out of 10 women died because of unsafe conditions while terminating their pregnancies.

Unfortunately, this is a matter of social class too. People who come from a certain social background are unlikely to find themselves turning to an abortion performed with a clothespin and needles. Considering that 45.5% of the Mexican population lives in poverty, access to abortion services becomes a major public health issue.

There have been many bills presented in Congress regarding legal and safe ways to address the problem nationwide, but they don’t pass because conservative legislators quickly dismiss the proposals. People in office need to acknowledge this as a public health issue. What we are up against is indeed a life or death situation.

In Mexico, a very religious country, the idea of voluntarily ending a pregnancy is still stigmatized. Abortion is illegal in most states; in 29 of the 32 states there are penalties for women who seek abortions, including incarceration, fines, community work and psychological therapy.

Having an unwanted pregnancy is very common, and women should have the right to choose what’s best for their own bodies. Experts have proven that in countries where abortions are legal, both maternal deaths and abortion rates are lower.

In Mexico, legal abortion, clinics, and follow-ups from clinicians would provide solutions for vulnerable women with poor health care access. The fact that this is still a centralized option, available exclusively in Mexico City, only intensifies the problem, leaving women from other states vulnerable when they make the journey all the way to the capital. If legal abortions were available for every single woman in Mexico, we would eliminate the fifth leading cause of maternal deaths in the nation.

On a national scale, consider joining the cause by demanding that our policymakers legalize safe and quality procedures for women throughout Mexico and Latin America. Individually, you can support NGOs that don’t received government funds. Here is a list of organizations in Mexico and Latin America:

We can all play a part in protecting health care access and bringing the world one step closer towards ending deaths because of abortions.