How Sharing Information on Safe Abortion is Transforming Lives in Rural Mozambique
Building Community Support for Sexual and Reproductive Health
"I had heard of safe abortion but didn't know about the specific procedures to provide it."
This changed for Lina Francisco Manuel—a nurse in a maternity ward in the small community of Nagor, in central Mozambique—when she joined 234 other health care providers in training offered by Oxfam Canada's project, Her Future, Her Choice (HFHC).
This initiative, delivered by Pathfinder, one of our project partners, aims to enhance access to information and services related to comprehensive sexual and reproductive health (SRH), including safe abortion care.
More than 114,000 people across the country have been positively impacted by HFHC, with over 70 per cent being women and girls.
Recognizing Challenges to Safe Abortion Care
Despite Mozambique's 2014 law that guarantees free access to safe abortion as a means to reduce maternal mortality, most women and girls in rural communities like Nagor continue to encounter barriers to safe abortion care, including:
- Prejudices, myths, and harmful beliefs about sexuality.
- The perception that a woman's primary role is to reproduce.
- Sociocultural barriers in which children are seen as an inheritance that guarantees the sustenance of families.
- Stigma and discrimination toward those seeking SRH services.
- Fear of reprisals for seeking care.
- Financial burdens associated with looking for care (e.g. travel costs).
Also, some health providers don't offer all the services people need to care for their sexual and reproductive health. Some might mistreat people, violate their privacy, or charge them for originally cost-free services. These challenges can make it difficult for many women and girls to access safe abortion services. They may resort to riskier alternatives, potentially leading to serious health problems, including death.
The number of health providers HFHC has trained on sexual and reproductive health and rights programs, including safe abortion care.
The number of health facilities supported by the HFHC project to make sexual and reproductive health services available.
Creating Meaningful Change Through Training and Education
Through the HFHC project, currently offered in 10 districts in Ethiopia, Malawi, Mozambique, and Zambia, Oxfam Canada is working closely with a total of 11 local partners in the region to ensure that those seeking SRH services receive the care they need and are legally entitled to.
For instance, in Nagor, our partner Pathfinder is setting up committees that work with local health centers to improve communication and trust between the community and healthcare providers. With the support of Mozambique's provincial and district health offices, these committees offer a safe and supportive space for people to discuss their health concerns and issues.
Health providers and important community members—regulators, religious and traditional leaders, matrons, traditional medicine practitioners, and activists—are trained on topics such as sexual and reproductive health and rights, gender-based violence, and contraception. Once they complete this training, participants like Lina conduct outreach sessions to increase awareness for others, connect people to resources and services, and promote advocacy with the government to advance SRH programs with a rights-based approach Meaning of the term "rights-based approach" It's a human rights-based approach that analyzes and addresses inequalities and unfair power relationships that can cause healthcare and development problems. Using this approach, we can work towards better and more sustainable healthcare and development outcomes and fight against discriminatory practices. .
When Lina told Ventura Namucondia Sabini that his workplace, the Nagor Health Center offered free, safe abortions, he was skeptical.
"I didn't really believe it," Ventura says. "Everyone said that it was a crime, and if you went to a health facility you would have to pay or give something."
However, he soon gained a clear understanding of the life-saving services available at the health center.
"I participated in two sessions," he explains, "and I learnt that [abortion] is free and it is not a crime. I am informing my community now."
As chief of Nagor's committee, Ventura, a highly influential figure, has been talking about safe abortion services during community meetings. He has also been helping people to look for other SRH services, like contraception, HIV testing and treatment, and care for those who have experienced gender-based violence or rape.
The number of community leaders trained so far on sexual health and reproductive rights. They share their knowledge with other influential figures and community members by organizing engaging awareness and education activities.
The number of women and girls that have sought safe abortion and post-abortion care at the 19 health facilities where HFHC is being implemented.
Realizing Community-Driven Change
Through HFHC, communities are gaining a better understanding of the available healthcare services that are rights-based and safe for women and girls due to information sharing through local training initiatives. As a result, people are becoming more familiar with laws that support their health and access to safe medical abortion.
At an institutional level, HFHC is working to reduce the stigma around abortion and ensure everyone can access the care they need by training and supporting healthcare staff and program managers to provide quality abortion services without discrimination.
HFHC is committed to increasing access to safe abortions and making SRHR knowledge more prevalent. The people of Nagor embody this dedication. Their collective effort to elevate healthcare services through their local committees' work is a shining example of a commitment to improving health and transforming lives in their community.
About the Project
The Her Future, Her Choice project is taking action to improve the sexual and reproductive rights of women and girls. The project works closely with local organizations to ensure women and girls have access to the essential health information and services they need to make informed choices. This work includes training public health workers, changing negative attitudes toward sexual and reproductive health and advocating for women's bodily autonomy and rights.
This project is undertaken with the financial support of the Government of Canada, provided through Global Affairs Canada and the generous Canadian public.
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