Access to quality sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) information and services is an age-old challenge in Malawi, owing to its largely conservative culture. The challenge is even more pronounced among young people, particularly women below the age of 25 years who are seeking treatment for complications arising from unsafe abortions.
The case study documents how youth take a leadership role in safe abortion advocacy. It is part of the Regional SRHR Fund’s documentation of case studies aimed at supporting cross learning and knowledge sharing to enable organizations conceptualize, design and coordinate adolescent SRHR advocacy.
Several factors contribute to this, including limited access to information and access to contraceptive services for adolescents. With less than five percent of adolescents accessing and utilizing modern contraceptive methods, adolescents are faced with high proportions of unintended pregnancies. As a result, some of the adolescents resort to unsafe abortions, with adolescents accounting for over a fifth of all patients accessing post abortion care (PAC) in public health facilities.
It is with this background that Ipas Malawi’s ASRHR Program aims to ensure meaningful participation of young people and amplify their voices in community mobilization and advocacy processes targeted at legal reforms. Ipas Malawi with support from Hivos through the Regional SRHR Fund built the capacity of young people in advocacy and created platforms at community, district and national level for youth to engage in the policy discourse on the Termination of Pregnancy Bill.
While legal and policy changes take time and advocacy processes span a long time, lessons from Ipas Malawi’s ASRHR Program show that working with like-minded stakeholders through capacity strengthening and convening civil society organizations and human rights defenders to form a movement of change agents advocating SRHR, including abortion, under the banner of the Coalition for the Prevention of Unsafe Abortion (COPUA) has results in the sustainability of ASRHR advocacy and an enabling social environment for policy and legal reform.
The ‘Youth leadership in safe abortion advocacy’ ASRHR program showcases the upskilling and mentorship of youth-led and youth-serving organizations on abortion rights advocacy. It additionally shows the mentorship program for these organizations to integrate abortion advocacy into existing SRHR advocacy programming in Malawi. The case study is part of the Regional SRHR Fund’s documentation of case studies aimed at supporting cross learning and knowledge sharing to enable organizations conceptualize, design and coordinate adolescent SRHR advocacy. This initiative has been made possible with support from the Embassy of Sweden through the Regional SRHR Team.