Innovative Solutions to Sexual Healthcare in Switzerland

Noemi, 24, is the youth network co-founder and coordinator for IPPF’s Member Association, Santé Sexuelle Suisse/Sexuelle Gesundheit Schweiz. Here, she shares her experiences and thoughts on the impact COVID-19 is having on sexual healthcare and young people, and talks about how the crisis can offer opportunities.  

The Impact on Sexual Healthcare  

Under normal circumstances, I’d be conducting strategic planning and advocacy work. I would be planning and implementing actions, campaigns and events for the Youth Network, and coaching, motivating and training youth volunteers.

The COVID-19 situation is impacting and intensifying my work. We have to focus on the most essential and basic needs concerning SRHR, which are now under threat. We have had to communicate as quickly as possible that abortion services are still available in all Swiss hospitals. The abortion rate dropped tremendously at the start of the pandemic, because women were afraid to go to the hospitals or didn’t know that abortion services are still provided. We contacted all the family planning centers that provide services concerning sexual health. We wanted to gather best practices in these times concerning the provision of contraception, including emergency contraception. We are closely monitoring the situation as best as possible to intervene in the media or get in contact with hospitals and pharmacies as soon as possible to keep people updated on services.

Getting Creative on Social Media  

Next to the monitoring and political work, I started a creative initiative during the COVID-19 isolation. With our Youth Network we created an artistic competition on our FB and Instagram platforms on issues such as masturbation, menstruation, coming out, female genitalia, and pornography.  

The aim is to enhance creativity and allow young people to reflect on sexual and reproductive health and rights in a creative way. The aim was also to offer something fun and positive in this difficult time. As a prize, we are awarding sex toys from a small queer sex store in Switzerland.  

The project has a lot of success; there are a lot of young people in Switzerland participating and thanking us for this initiative. Next to that we inform the young people in Switzerland through our social media channels about sexual health services which are still in place.  

A winning entry from the social media art competition @judendnetzwerk


Opportunities in a Crisis  

I’m sincerely hoping that this crisis helps to find sustainable solutions to problems and gaps in the health system, particularly concerning sexual and reproductive health, which have become visible during the pandemic.  

We could use this crisis for good and advocate for better access to abortion care. It should be made possible to consult via telephone or get medical receipts with online forms. Moreover, the temporary management of medical abortions – with mifepristone and misoprostol – at home during the first 10 weeks of pregnancy following a telephone or electronic medical consultation, rather than having to take the first dose at a health facility, like it is implemented right now in the UK, could become a long-term solution to improve the access to abortion.  

Women’s health and reproductive rights don’t end during a pandemic and we must continue to promote sexual and reproductive health and rights and improve health and gender equality for all during and after the pandemic.  

A crisis like this offers an opportunity for innovative and sustainable solutions. It also provides a reclaimed sense of shared humanity, where people realize what matters most: the health and safety of their loved ones, and by extension the health and safety of their community, country and fellow global citizens.  

And basic health and safety requires comprehensive sexual and reproductive health care.   

Noemi is a representative of IPPF’s European Youth Network; YSAFE.  Subscribe to IPPF’s newsletter for more engaging content about sexual healthcare. 

Bellamy on Amplifying the Voices of Afroitalians

For the second episode of We Belong Podcast, we take you to Milan, Italy – the country currently worst affected by the coronavirus. We recorded a special remote interview with Bellamy, a model, blogger, activist and the founder of Afroitalian Souls.

Bellamy was born and raised in Italy in a half Ugandan and half Sudanese family. Her interests range from fashion and skincare to international politics. She became increasingly passionate about socio-cultural issues, particularly on the experience of the black body in different countries. While researching this, she felt called to take action in Italy.

With her friend Grazia, she created Afroitalian Souls: a digital platform that promotes the excellence of the African diaspora in Italy while simultaneously bringing awareness to the endless social and racial issues they face.

In our conversation with Bellamy, we discuss the impact of Covid-19 in Italy, the structural and cultural forms of violence that black Italians face, and how she uses sarcasm and style to amplify the voice of Afroitalians on social media.

Episode available on Apple Podcast, Spotify, Anchor, Youtube and at the bottom of this post.


We Belong is the podcast that gives a voice to the New Daughters of Europe.  Yasmine Ouirhrane, appointed expert by the European Union and the African Union, will host this series of conversations with young women representing the diversity of Europe. She will travel and meet women who are breaking stereotypes, navigating multiple identities, and challenging the conventional wisdom of what it means to belong. 

As an advocate for social and gender justice in Europe, Yasmine Ouirhrane was awarded Young European of the Year 2019 by the Schwarzkopf Foundation. She was also named EDD Young Leader by the European Commission and is an expert on Peace & Security at the AU-EU Youth Cooperation Hub, mandated by the EU and the AU. She is an award-winning fellow at Women Deliver and a member of the Gender Innovation Agora at UN Women.

The Podcast is produced by Les Cavalcades.

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Meet Alice: the feminist activist fighting for change

Alice Ackermann is twenty years old – she’s the youngest IPPF executive committee member. Her convictions on women’s rights and sexual health are visceral. “I am angry,” Alice says when asked what drives her, “but, it is a positive anger.”

An Early Introduction to Injustice

Alice was born in Strasbourg, France to a Jewish Orthodox family. “It was so obvious to me, from the onset, that my three brothers and I were not treated in the same way,” she says. She explains how the religious rites of passage – circumcision and bar mitzvah – gave importance to the different stages of her brothers’ development. For girls, there was nothing.

Her elementary education in a Jewish school was delivered in the same spirit: “we were considered lesser pupils.” She rebelled from a very young age – before she turned ten she was called a feminist as an insult. Alice says this experience shaped what still drives her today: a clear conception of the injustice that is done to women and their rights.

She was later, at her own demand, transferred to a secular school. Here, she was confronted with “something more violent.”

“When we were teenagers, my friends were sharing their experiences of being kissed without consent, and so many girls talked about being raped, but were not calling it that because it was so hard to put a name on it,” Alice recalls. After hearing about her friend’s experiences, she was determined to do something about it.

Starting a Feminist Club

When the local sexual and reproductive healthcare organization gave a sexuality education session at her school, Alice asked if she could join as a volunteer but was told she was too young.

Never one to be discouraged easily, Alice began organising demonstrations and awareness raising campaigns in Strasbourg on topics such as street harassment or the different shapes and sizes of vulvas.

When she started high school a year later, she created a feminist club and organized debates and open conferences on the history of the sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) movement. That’s also when she started doing peer-to-peer sex education with other student members of the club. It was immediately effective: “the students felt free to ask questions, debate among themselves and talk about what they witnessed.”


Peer-to-Peer Education Works

Alice says the reason peer-to-peer education works so well has to do with empowerment. “When you are young and being discriminated against, you are very vulnerable,” she explains. “What happens with peer-to-peer is that people look at you and realise that they can take action and have knowledge too. Every time I do a session people come to me afterwards and say ‘you are so young, how can you be doing this? How can I do it too?’.”

The sessions worked so well that the local sexual and reproductive healthcare organization in Strasbourg got on board. They provided her with training and she became, at sixteen years old, their youngest volunteer. Alice continues to work as a comprehensive sexuality educator and she holds a paid job as a counsellor at one Le Planning Familial’s call centres in Paris.

SRHR on a Global Scale

At last year’s G7 conference, Alice worked with other feminist activists to influence the recommendations put forward by attending governments. “It’s hard,” she admits. “What’s harder is that, on the global scale, things don’t always appear to be changing for the better.”

She says during the G7 conference, American and Italian governments were not interested: “it’s really simple, if you talk about SRHR during a meeting, they just walk out. Donald Trump did it in Canada last year.”

As someone whose commitment to feminism is motivated by her own life experience, Alice is acutely aware of the importance of coordinating international advocacy to a grassroots approach. That’s why she’s not considering quitting counselling or peer-to-peer education anytime soon.

“I wish I were less of an exception, we need to have more young people involved in every level of the organization.” As a newly appointed IPPF executive committee member, she is on a mission to change that.

As a regional youth representative of IPPF and a member of several feminist organisations, Alice Ackermann advocates for women’s reproductive rights and youth empowerment at the national and international level. She’s also studying history at Paris University.

In Conversation with Christine Sayo

Christine Sayo is a sexual and reproductive health and rights advocate from Kenya. In this conversation with Girls’ Globe, she talks about feeling judged by others for simply talking openly about issues related to sex.

“The community looks at you as a deviant, as someone who is going against the norm.”

The good news, though, is that Christine is seeing a shift in attitudes thanks to globalization and increased access to information from different channels.

“Having information coming in from different sources has helped to destigmatize some of these issues around sexual and reproductive health in young people.”

This video was made possible through a generous grant from SayItForward.org in support of women’s advocacy messages.

If you liked this post, we think you’ll love our interviews with KingaWinfredScarlett, Natasha, Tasneem and Beverly, too!

In Conversation with Beverly Nkirote Mutwiri

Beverly Nkirote Mutwiri is a sexual and reproductive health and rights advocate from Kenya. She speaks to Girls’ Globe about the challenges she has encountered as a young woman in a patriarchal society.

“In many SRHR spaces we have male dominancy, and at times it can be very intimidating, especially to a young woman.”

This video was made possible through a generous grant from SayItForward.org in support of women’s advocacy messages.

If you liked this post, we think you’ll love our interviews with KingaWinfredScarlett, Natasha and Tasneem, too!

Is Fear of Failure Holding you Back?

If I think back to roughly seven years ago, my barely-teenage self would have had Coldplay’s ‘Fix You’ on repeat while walking home. The famous lyric, ‘When you try your best but you don’t succeed,’ made a mark on my adolescent mind back then and I guess it has never really left. I used to wake up with the thought of it, write it down and sing it out whenever I had the opportunity.

When the world around you tries to make believe that you aren’t good enough and don’t try hard enough, the worry that you’re failing starts to stick.

Recently, I have found myself spiralling back down into the toxic circle of conformity and self-pressure. Often new adventures and new life phases come with new challenges. These challenges are unfamiliar and can seem impossible to overcome. Thirteen-year-old me pops into my head, repeating ‘when you try your best but you don’t succeed…’ for some kind of comfort.

But now, older and wiser (or so I like to think), I know there is more to success than other people’s opinions and perception of the word itself. The question I ask myself now is – when will the fear of failure become too real? When will the consequence become not trying at all?

In today’s busy, fast-paced world, failure is often deemed unacceptable. We are encouraged to create and innovate but also to avoid making mistakes or ‘wasting’ resources like time or money. Surely, the only real failure in life is when you stop trying. When the fear of failure takes control.

If you haven’t heard this recently, let me be the one to remind you:

We were not made to be perfect. We were not made to be great at everything we attempt.

As crazy as it sounds, fear and failure are not your enemies. The fear is a biological response that is triggered by your brain when it perceives a threat in your environment. Your brain then makes a decision based on this perceived threat, regardless of whether or not it actually is one. The good news is that it is then up to you to decide whether to let it affect you.

Don’t let the fear of failure stop you from achieving and accomplishing for yourself. There is no need to achieve in order to please other people. In fact, the biggest success is to try solemnly for yourself and nobody else.