This week, Girls’ Globe has been on the ground at the Nairobi Summit to amplify the voices of grassroots activists, youth leaders and passionate advocates. 25 years ago, in 1994, the International Conference on Population and Development adopted a landmark Programme of Action. There has been significant progress since then, but dramatic inequality remains, and we have a long way still to go. What happens after this year’s summit is crucial.
In this video, we hear from women about their hopes and visions for the future.
“My vision is that we will have all girls being able to access sexual and reproductive health knowledge and rights.” – Mourine Achieng, Moving the Goalposts
The Girls’ Globe team, led by Felogene Anumo and Abigail Arunga, spoke to women who had participated in the 2019 Nairobi Summit on ICPD25 and asked them what they hope to see next.
“It is my hope that we no longer have young people defined by their sexual and reproductive health rights” – Jane Anika, Beijing 25+ Youth Task Force
This year’s summit renewed global focus on sexual and reproductive health and rights. A future where all rights of all people are fully realised is possible. By listening to the voices of women and girls, and by responding to their perspectives and priorities, we stand a far greater chance of achieving this ambitious yet crucial goal.
Catch up with all of Girls’ Globe’s coverage of the Nairobi Summit here.
This reporting was supported by the Children’s Investment Fund Foundaiton.
The Nairobi Summit kicks off this week. It will mark 25 years since the International Conference on Population and Development adopted the Programme of Action in Cairo. The summit comes at a critical time to discuss the way forward for sexual and reproductive health and rights. Girls’ Globe is on the ground to amplify the voices of grassroots activists and youth leaders. In this video, we hear why women march to the Nairobi Summit on ICPD25.
“I envision a country, or rather, a continent, where young girls and young women have power to decide on what to do with their bodies and have access to information so that they can make better and good decisions.” – Ruth Mumbi, Social Justice Defender
The Girls’ Globe team, led by Felogene Anumo and Abigail Arunga, spoke to women marching in the lead up to the Nairobi Summit on ICPD25. A common thread in the responses to why they were marching was access to information and services for women and girls – especially those in marginalized communities. Realizing sexual and reproductive health and rights will lead to better decisions about their bodies. Women were marching for women to have full autonomy over their bodies and to put an end to maternal deaths.
“I am here marching today for ICPD to bring out the voice of the unheard. The young women in the slum areas. If the young people can get information at an early age, we are able to act better and make better decisions.” – Maryanne Wanjiru from K Youth Media.
“I am here to support women empower themselves, and find more empowering ways to live, and be and flourish! My dream is that women will have full autonomy of their bodies and decision-making.” – Kaz, Founder of Kaz Entertainment.
Follow along @girlsglobe on Instagram and Twitter this week for more grassroots voices, directly from the Nairobi Summit on ICPD25.
This reporting was supported by the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation.
Last weekend, women followed the Marea Verde and took over the streets of Mexico. Our goal? To demand laws that respect and protect our reproductive rights.
What is the Marea Verde?
‘Marea Verde’ literally means ‘green wave’, but that doesn’t explain the full meaning. There is much more behind those two words. Marea Verde is a feminist movement advocating for the decriminalization of abortion. Women deserve the right to choose if and when they want to become mothers – and to make that choice without fear.
First, it is important to understand that in Mexico, not all women have access to sex education. Furthermore, many women live in fear of violence, and then there are the women who do not feel ready, or simply do not desire motherhood.
Supporters of the Marea Verde movement carry green scarves tied on bags, purses, backpacks, etc. as a symbol of change. Each time women mobilize for this cause, wrists, necks, heads, walls and whole streets turn green.
In Latin America, like the rest of the world, lawmakers have historically been mostly men – so we continue to live in systems created by and for them. In many countries, women have begun to win equality in representation and decision-making. Systems should belong to both men and women, but still there is a long way to go.
The background of the Green Wave is extensive, but it has received more attention since 2018 when huge movements to decriminalize abortion took place in Argentina. Although it came close to becoming a reality, the Senate eventually voted against changes in the law. The news was heartbreaking for all of us who followed the Argentinian fight. The disappointment hurt our pride, fueled our anger and led the Green Wave to spread all over Latin America.
September 28 is the Day of Global Action for Legal and Safe Abortion, otherwise known as the Day for the Decriminalization of Abortion. The goal is to make the problem visible and demand the recognition of abortion as a right. #GritoGlobalPorAbortoLegal (Global Shoutout for Legal Abortion) gathers Latin American feminists, collectives and allies in an annual march to demand laws in favor of women’s reproductive rights.
Lawmakers need to add our needs to their agenda. All women need the freedom to choose to become mothers and the freedom to choose not to. Abortions happen even when there are laws against it. Are we willing to accept that the only option is to be forced to be a mother? The outcomes of this include abandoned and neglected children, women dying because of unsafe abortions or women going to jail.
“(…) Legal restrictions, together with other barriers, mean many women induce abortion themselves or seek abortion from unskilled providers. The legal status of abortion has no effect on a woman’s need for an abortion, but it dramatically affects her access to safe abortion.”
This matters because worldwide, an estimated 25 million unsafe abortions occur each year. 97% of these occur in developing countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America. We are protesting a global public health issue.
We need to break the myths that limit and hurt women’s freedom. It is not okay to impose moral rules and religious beliefs over what should be a human right. Safe abortions do not kill women. In the contrary, they empower women through their independence and autonomy.
What’s happening in Mexico?
The Marea Verde took over Mexico last weekend. There are many reasons why we need a movement to raise women’s voices and put pressure on our legislators here. For the past 12 years, Mexico City was the only place where women could access a legal and safe abortion. Recently, Oaxaca decriminalized abortion too, which is a step forward.
In Puebla, there are lawmakers who support the pro-choice cause, but Congress keeps delaying the votes. In the past few years, at least 1183 women from this state travelled to Mexico City to get an abortion. The situation, including teenage pregnancy and violence against women, is challenging and complex, but we keep moving for change.
Women are complete human beings, whether they are mothers or not. Motherhood should be a personal decision. It is our right to choose what happens to our bodies. This is why we are turning our cities green and asking for sex education, contraception, and legal abortion.
Anyone, anywhere, anytime can join the ‘Marea Verde’ movement. Being pro-choice means being pro-women. We can achieve change, step by step, by informing ourselves, choosing representatives who are truly advocates for human rights, supporting each other as women and by proactively promoting a society governed with a gender perspective.
Diana Meneses took over the Girls’ Globe instagram Stories on September 28 from Puebla, Mexico. Watch her takeover here.
Let us introduce you to Kizanne James. Kizanne is a physician from Trinidad & Tobago working on reproductive health and rights.
In this conversation with Girls’ Globe, Kizanne speaks about the challenges she has faced as a woman – and especially as a black woman – working in the field of sexual and reproductive health and rights in the Caribbean.
“We were taught that if you had sex or you had a boy touch you, it’s like a tomato – the more that a boy touches you the less valuable you would be. And that’s not the same narrative for boys.”
Kizanne explains that it’s being grounded in her values that helps her to handle difficult circumstances. In the face of negativity or even hateful abuse from those who disagree with her, knowing her work and advocacy empowers women and girls to make decisions about their own lives keeps her motivated.
“Regardless of what I may be feeling, or the negative voices or concerns people may have…I feel like I’m on the right side.”
This video was made possible through a generous grant from SayItForward.org to support women’s advocacy messages.
Men can be fantastic allies when it comes to abortion. Here are 7 tips to get you started:
1. No judgement
If your partner, friend, relative or anyone else in your life is considering an abortion, never judge them or try to sway their decision – and if she wants to talk to you about it, just listen. Deciding whether or not to have an abortion is a deeply personal choice, and it must ultimately be one made by the woman who is pregnant.
2. Respect her decision
Once a woman has decided to have an abortion, respect that choice. Her body is her own, and she must always be in control of what happens to it. If a woman you know has decided abortion is the right path for her, trust that she knows what she is doing.
3. Offer to be there
If someone close to you is having an abortion, offer to accompany them to the clinic, or to meet up some time after. They might just want and need your company, and a friendly ear to listen to them. Equally, if they wish to be alone, that’s OK too.
4. Accept her emotions…
Having an abortion can be an emotional experience for a woman. Whether they seem happy, sad, relieved, angry, scared or any other emotion – or none at all – accept their feelings and do not judge or question their reactions. Their emotions and feelings are unique to them alone.
5. …and your own
Abortions can be very emotional experiences for men too. If your partner is considering one, or has had one, it is important to communicate respectfully with her about what you are going through. Or you might want to talk to someone else about it instead. Consider seeing a counsellor who can help you process your feelings healthily.
6. Consider the cost
Abortion procedures can be costly, which often leads to additional stress for those seeking one. If you were involved in the pregnancy then offer to share the financial burden so it’s one less thing for the woman to worry about.
7. Talk about it
Abortion is an everyday procedure that many women will experience, but it is still shrouded in stigma in many circles. We all have a responsibility to break that stigma and to educate ourselves, and this can start with something as simple as striking up a conversation with a friend about abortion.
Want to know more? Pledge your voice to I Decide, IPPF’s movement for safe abortion access for all – we’ll send you all the resources you need to get you started. You can also find videos explaining the different types of abortion, personal testimonies, frequently asked questions (with answers!), podcasts, reports and much more.
Content note – this post refers to sexual violence and suicide.
Recently, a Twitter user named @twadi_doll shared her story fearlessly and curtly online – giving many people a reality check and leaving them feeling shaken.
Twadi narrated in her thread that at 13 years – orphaned and young – she found herself living with a pastor and his wife.
A respected…no, scratch that…a revered member of society, the man of God raped Twadi her on a regular basis. On other occasions, he would call his friends and they took turns exploiting her body. As if that wasn’t enough, the pastor would ask her constantly to seek forgiveness from God, for making him commit a sin.
Since she had nowhere to go and was being blackmailed by the pastor for receiving food and shelter from him for 3 years, Twadi couldn’t escape the reach of the preacher’s hand. Even when she spoke out in church, she was called a liar and a demon who had been sent to tempt and disorganise the pastor in his job of shepherding the Lord’s people.
As a result of the continued sexual abuse, Twadi became pregnant and 6 months later, her teachers learnt of her story and offered her immediate support. They opened a case against the pastor, who in shame committed suicide. An abortion was arranged for Twadi and painful as it was, she took the option because she had long decided that either the baby dies or she commits suicide herself.
Twadi’s story calls upon us all to play our part in improving SRHR information and service access to young people.
This lack of access spirals into multiple other challenges, and sadly, it is the young person who suffers. Their untapped potential is heavily undermined.
For starters, we should always be able to come out and condemn what is wrong, no matter the position or reputation of the person in question. The pastor’s wife, years later after her husband’s death, wrote Twadi a letter saying she knew about the abuse the whole time, but found it better than her man going out to cheat. In Twadi’s own words, “she used me as a glue to hold her marriage together.” The pastor’s wife betrayed and failed Twadi, and her suffering falls as equally on her shoulders as it does on the pastor’s.
We need to pay special attention to young people’s voices on their reproductive health concerns with as open a mind as possible.
Sometimes we can’t understand young people by assuming we know who they are and what they want, especially if we aren’t young people ourselves. The pastor’s congregation was way off course in this case, defending the pastor simply because of his position and ignoring the truth Twadi was telling.
If even one of them had taken time to hear her out, it could have changed her fortune. We should seek virtual spaces where young people are free to talk about their challenges with no fear of judgement, and where they are sure they will be believed and helped.
It is critical that we provide young people with information on their rights so that they can know when to say no, how to say it and how to defend themselves against manipulation and abuse.
The more we starve young people of such information, the more we make them vulnerable to attacks and abuse and the multiple challenges that ripple from those.
Finally, we need to work with stakeholders who can put policies in place to ease the combatting of these challenges. In Uganda, for example, we have been advocating for an operational School Health Policy where we can provide sexual and reproductive health and rights information to young people that fits the context we live in.
Such a document is key, because then we can arm young people with knowledge, and we will have the backing of the law. It is something that policy makers and governments should consider, lest we see more young people come out with stories similar to Twadi’s.
This selfless story should be an eye opener.
Many young people are undergoing such horrific challenges, and the veils of religion and culture, which otherwise should be guiding us to a sane and loving society, are being used as defences and barriers against SRHR access. Such incidents are indeed present in our society and the best we can do is speak out against them, bring the perpetrators to justice and provide young people with information and services so that they can make informed decisions and protect themselves.
PS: Twadi has moved on and is strong now. However, is that what we want, for all young people to become strong like her and move on? Or is it better to stamp abuse out once and for all? Something must change in our communities, right here and right now.