Is our Voices Still Voiceless?

_BSL9604I observed the so called Reproductive Health Right activists/ advocates are still afraid to talk about abortion issues in public. “We should not sound like we are promoting safe abortion. Our action needs to be subtle. This will have good impact on media. Our message won’t be misinterpreted”- one of the Reproductive Health Right Activists.  SERIOUSLY!! You are the one who has good following in your network and outside. You can influence 1000 of people in and around. But you are feared being  misquoted.

I had same observation when we were celebrating third national safe abortion day. To mark Safe Abortion Day- 28th Sept 2017, Reproductive Health Right working group organized a candle light event to remember women who lost lives due to unsafe abortion by lighting candles. There are series of program the working group will be organizing which aim to campaign as a movement to promote universal access to safe, legal and confidential abortion as a women’s health and human rights issue.

We celebrated the candle light event in the most heaped area of Kathmandu where biggest political protests, social campaigns and discussions take place every year. All those discussions are fairly covered in the media and have great impact on readers. Ultimately, this is what we wanted when it comes to media coverage on abortion to spread relevant facts on safe abortion to demystify stigma surrounding the issue. Only 38% of women are aware of legality of abortion in Nepal. It has been 15 years of abortion legalization in Nepal and women are still seeking unsafe abortion resulting into complications. This article gives us a glimpse to real women accessing abortion in Nepal.

I participated in the event too. We had play cards with information on abortion. I requested the team to let’s go outside of the place and display the play cards to general people so that they will be informed on what we have been doing in the Mandala. The team hesitated to do so. It seems like they wanted to completely the event in few seconds sharing information within us and leave the place before someone comes and interrogates on lightening candles. It’s a public place and we are supposed to invite more than 100 people and start interacting with public on abortion being safe and legal in Nepal. Only thing that going around my mind was “Could you please leave to young people? We have much more and effective ideas to make this event memorable. Kindly get us in the board and discuss with.” Upcoming generation should be aware of why abortion needs to be safe, legal and confidential.

All Reproductive Health Right activists are scare of getting into trouble. Or should I called it getting their name in front page of national newspaper associating them with abortion. This is called DOUBLE STANDARD. We are supposed to spread accurate and reliable information on Safe and Legal abortion outside of our network. We, as abortion activists have enough information on abortion being human right. This needs to be replicated to those who are unaware and against safe & legal abortion. The objective of celebrating international campaign on safe and legal abortion is to aware communities, sensitizing media, advocating political parties and reforming unfavorable laws and policies which are barrier for a woman to access her right to healthcare. However, this event was celebrated only in the presence of organizations, partners and stakeholders who are pioneer on advocating for abortion. This in deed won’t support our campaign to make our voice heard. IS OUR VOICES STILL VOICELESS? Obviously yes!

We as abortion activists are not prepared to answer the question “Why are you promoting ABORTION?”. We always try to avoid the questions and most reply “We are not promoting abortion. We are promotion family planning”. As if “family planning” is the solution to prevent abortion incidence. If it was all Government health facilities and NGOs have been promotion free family planning services for many decades now. Why we are not confident answering this simple question. Unless our collective voices won’t advocate for  “Abortion”, the issue will be stigmatized every time.

Last year, we organized similar program in same place lighting candle in memory of women who lost their life due to unsafe abortion. One of the social media group posted saying “What a shame! People are celebrating the issues which kills unborn child”. On sharing the issues with the team working for women’s choice and access to safe abortion, they do not strategy to deal with hate comments/ negative remarks. One of them told, “Don’t worry! This will not make sense.” WHAT? The page has more than 1000K followers, mostly young people. The young people have started supporting the notion ” Abortion is not safe. It should be punishable.” It’s surprising when the activists close their eyes saying these remarks won’t affect the cause. Anti abortion groups are actively working in Nepal and they are not leaving an opportunity to stigmatize abortion. But we are carefree and are not setting strategies to back out those hater calls. Then we, Youth Champions took the initiation and at least try our best to reply positively sharing facts and data. It is important to clear the myths and misconception associated with abortion. If we don’t, this will stigmatize activists like us for advocating for safe abortion.

We need to make more noise to make our voice heard by women and young girls in communities. Around 322,000 women undergo abortion in Nepal every year and more than 186,000 cases are unsafe. Unless our campaign are effective and our messages getting to women and young girls, we won’t be able to reduce unsafe abortion cases. More than 3,000 health professionals have been mobilized in safe abortion service in Nepal. Around 1,100 health facilities have been authorized to carry out the comprehensive abortion care. We need to shout-out in all possible ways to aware people about safe and legal abortion sites and these sites providing safe, legal, confidential and free abortion service which is carried out by trained and qualified health professionals.

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Youth Champions during Humanitarian Crisis

Youth Champions Nepal were planning for its country seminar to introduce itself among network working in dedication to young people’s sexual and reproductive health & rights when Nepal was struck by its worst earthquake in nearly a century on April 25, 2015. The earthquake destroyed nearly 600,000 and damaged almost 300,000 homes, and displaced some 2.8 million people. More than 8.800 people were killed, tens of thousands were injured. The people are still frightened by aftershocks and the devastation was compounded by number of powerful aftershocks.

Once the earthquake struck our cities, there was urgent need for food, water, shelter and other basic stuffs including first aid. There were numerous causalities reported in district hospitals. The first step of our Youth Champions Network in Nepal we distributed rice, dal, water, sugar, oils, traps & tents, etc. This is what we immediately understood about a humanitarian crisis of this nature. This was the first experience for us living in Kathmandu valley and dealing with natural disaster. But in-coordination with Asia Safe Abortion partnership we realized, there is also an urgent need to provide life-saving reproductive health services and to prevent and respond to gender based violence. Asia Safe Abortion Partnership allowed to use funds to prepare “Hygiene Kits” and distribute among women and girls being affected by earthquake.

“I am sharing about the situation in my community “Bhaktapur”. Since Bhaktapur is a very old and traditional city, most of the houses are made of mud and wood. The earthquake had destroyed most of the old and traditional homes of the Bhaktapur city. People are now staying in open places like field, party palaces, ground and even in dumping sites. We have been calling those places as “CAMPS”. As, the earth has decreased its vibration and we are getting after shocks which we are used to, people who have their house safe and fine to stay have returned to their places.


Among the people in the camps, there are limited tents, electricity, water and food. The people who have lost everything and do not have any alternatives are staying in the camps. As per our team’s observation, there are many pregnant women in the camps. In particular camp, there are 2- 3 women who are pregnant and 1-2 women who recently gave birth to their child. There are more than 25 campsites in Bhaktapur. Some of the places are unreachable as the pathways are closed due to destruction.

Since, there is no work at all and most of the people are emotionally challenged, alcohol has been the best alternatives to pass the time and means of entertainment in the camps. This is also affecting young women and they might be in risk of sexual abuse in coming days. Likewise, smoking among men has been tremendous which is in directly affecting pregnant women and women who just have delivered. As we have set-up our HELP DESK in Bhaktapur Hospitals, there are many changes regarding pregnancy after the devastating earthquake. I personally attended a couple, who were 3 months pregnant and came to visit hospital after the women started to feel the pain on her stomach as she jumped to escape from falling home. But the case was not serious.

Other remarkable affect on women’s health is there are physically and mentally been challenged by the situation. In one side, they have lost their near and dear ones and on other side they have lost their properties. In same time, there is overburden of the work to single women as they have lost their husband and now they suddenly have the responsibility of running the house. Other major effect is on sanitation. There are no proper toilets in CAMPs. Similarly scarcity of water, people are defecating wherever they like. There have been spread of many diseases and women have been the worse affected.

People in camps are mostly provided with raw noodles and biscuits. Proper nutritious food is not available to young women, pregnant women and women who have just delivered. Essential medication like TT, ANC/PNC, iron tab, etc. is also not available. There is a scarcity of contraceptives and we are unable to provide with much help, there are also women who had miscarriage during the situation but there is no care available for them. Health camps are being conducted by different organizations and medical teams have been mobilized but no one is focusing on women’s Sexual and Reproductive health.”- one of our Youth Champions Nepal

Likewise, our youth champions working in coordination with Bhaktapur Youth Information Centre were engaged in assessing pregnant women, lactating women, adolescent girls their SRH and VAW. By, there were many articles online as well in print media which had been reporting continuously about women and girls in crisis situations who face special perils. Pregnant women need ante-natal care, a clean, safe place to give birth and medical attention in the event of complications. new mothers need vital nutrients and postpartum care. And women and girls of all ages need protection from gender based violence, including sexual violence, which tragically follows in the wake of most humanitarian crisis.

“There is a drunken man in our tent. We are mostly girls and women in the tent and we don’t feel safe, him being around. I went and told the camp management committee but they told me to come and complain only if something happens, but won’t that be too late? It’s a day time, but he can do anything to us at night.” A young girl taking shelter in a temporary camp in Kamalbinayak, Bhaktapur.”- One of BYIF volunteers

One of our Youth Champions met Mrs. Sarita Fhutuwar of Balambau, Changunarayan. She is a mother of two daughter and now is pregnant of 8 months. She thought she would have a normal delivery as before but due to earthquake she is in deep thought and is not sure about her post pregnancy. Her house is also badly collapsed and now.lives outside the house in tent. This is the time where she (every pregnant women)has to be given especial care but situation is just the opposite. Keeping in mind her health and situation we BYIF supported her with.some supplements like horlicks, nuts and biscuits(which is enough until delivery). She was also assured that with help of FPAN we will refer her to hospital nearby for safe delivery. This has made her feel much secure and relief.

Then we released we need to come up with a kit that address immediate need of pregnant women, lactating women, adolescent girls and children. Youth Champions Nepal planned to develop hygiene kit with materials like maxi, sari, towel, soap, panties, comb, cream, mosquito coils, sanitary pads (home-made), socks, tooth paste, tooth brush, diapers, supplemental food for babies, torch, napkins, ear buds, nail cutters and more.


Nepal and Nepalese are rising from rubble. The crisis in Nepal is far from over. As Monsoon is here, it has been followed by landslides. Aftershocks are regular occurrences but monsoon has made it difficult for locals to clear all rubble. Meanwhile, human traffickers are targeting the region to abduct vulnerable women and girls. In many ways the dangers are as great as ever.

Youth Advocacy Institute is Back: ASAP

Call for Applications: ASAP Youth Champions: The 3rd Advocacy Institute for Safe Abortion Rights

The ASAP Youth Advocacy Institute is back!!  

ASAP invites applications from young persons living and working in Asia to join the 3rdAdvocacy Institute for Safe Abortion Rights to be held in Mumbai, India from 8thto 11th Dec 2014.

The 2nd Youth Institute was conducted in Mumbai, India in September 2013. You can read about it here . You can also read the original blog here.

There is a growing need for young champions to take on the role of promoting, protecting and expanding the sexual and reproductive rights of women, men and youth in Asia. The most challenging of these issues is the right to access safe abortion services. Young people need to be able to challenge conservative interpretations that allow cultural practices to be used to restrict the rights of young people, especially young girls and women.

Understanding the gender and human rights dimensions of this struggle are important in building the capacity to be able to hold governments accountable for fulfilling the rights of their citizens. Building alliances with communities and key stakeholders is possible through the use of social networking platforms as well as off line activities.

This institute will cover the following topics:

  • Social construct of Gender
  • Human rights and women’s rights
  • Sexual and reproductive health and rights
  • Safe abortion access as a human right
  • Understanding relevant laws and policies
  • Values clarification
  • Communication skills including social media
  • Use of Facebook, Twitter and blogs for networking

The Institute will encourage leadership skills and engage in strategic planning to develop ongoing involvement. Participants will have further opportunities to work in close collaboration with ASAP country partners through small grants awarded.

Who you are:

  • You are a young person between 18 and 25 years of age, living and/or working in Asia.
  • You have a working knowledge of English.
  • You have at least 3 years’ experience working with issues of sexual and reproductive health in any capacity and you are passionate about the sexual and reproductive rights of young people.
  • You have a good social network of other young people
  • You have good communication skills and know how to use the Internet and smart phones for Facebook, Twitter and blogs.
  • You believe that every girl and woman should have the right to choose if and when she wants to be pregnant and if she wants to continue a pregnancy or not.
  • You can demonstrate how you will use what you learn at the Institute in your work and how you will continue to participate in follow-up activities

What this institute will be:

  •  An exciting and challenging 4 days with intense interactions!
  • In depth engagement with issues of sexual and reproductive health and rights in Asia from a gender and human rights perspective.
  • Learning how to use communication tools and social networking platforms.
  • An opportunity to interact with other young people from across Asia, for an enriching exchanges and sharing of experiences.
  • A chance to make a difference as a champion in your own country
  • Ongoing networking and mentoring support from the ASAP team beyond the workshop
  • Creation of an alumni network to stay involved with the issues and expand your sphere of influence!

Last date for applications: 15th Sept 2014

Please write to organizer on discussions.asap@gmail.com for application forms and for more information.