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iGNITE discusses Safe Abortion at Kings College

The third edition of iGNITE took place at Kings College on September 28 to amrk World Safe Abortion Day. The featured speaker was Madhabi Bajracharya, Programme Advisor at Ipas, a global non-governmental organisation dedicated to end preventable deaths and disabilities from unsafe abortion. She shared information, facts and data on the topic also taking questions and comments from the participating students and guests.

Although abortion is legal in Nepal, most people are unaware of the fact and there is a lot of judgement and prejudice about sex, unwanted pregnancy and abortion. Youngsters are unable to speak and consult with parents and guardians should they become pregnant, often resorting to unsafe abortion methods which puts them at great health risk and even death. Lack of awareness, lack of proper sex education, access to birth control and social stigma are major causes for unsafe abortion.

iGNITE women’s leadership talk series is initiated in collaboration with Ujyalo foundation, WOW magazine and Marie Stopes International Nepal. The goal is to advance leadership among young women.

Madhabi Bajracharya has been working with Ipas/Nepal for the last 13 years in different capacities. At present she is the Program Advisor. The aim of her job is to increase women’s ability to exercise their sexual and reproductive rights, especially the right to safe abortion. She works to minimise unsafe abortion and the resulting deaths and injuries, and to expand women’s access to comprehensive abortion care, including contraceptive and related reproductive health information and care.

She strives to foster a legal, policy and social environment supportive of women’s right to make their own sexual and reproductive health decisions freely and safely. As a part of her job, she advocates for better safe abortion policy and sustainability of safe abortion program in coordination with the government. She also works with young people from various fields to ensure their reproductive health and rights. Excerpts from an interview:

How important is sexual health education in the context of Nepal and where we stand today?
It is important that all people including young people receive age appropriate sexual health information and education and develop practical skills for keeping healthy. Currently, e young people do not have adequate access to appropriate information and services on sexual and reproductive health issues. Little about sexuality education is offered in schools and sexual and reproductive health topics are not openly discussed in families. Girls are in a more vulnerable position because they have less access to formal institutional structures such as schools and health care systems than boys have and are unlikely to be incorporated into or receive accurate information through informal communication networks.

What is the best source of information on sexual health and sex for young teens?
Educators can help families by providing culturally meaningful learning opportunities in safe and non-judgmental environments so that young teens can learn about sexual health and sex in a healthy and positive context. Although parents and guardians are the primary sex educators of their children, children also receive messages about sexuality from many other sources. Some of them may have more negative than positive impact. Schools and other community-based organisations can be important partners with parents to provide young people accurate and developmentally appropriate sexual health education.

What is safe abortion?
Safe Abortion is the termination of pregnancy carried out by the health worker with necessary skills and equipment, and in an environment that confirms to minimal required medical standards. The service provider and service site should have listing certificate which authorises them to provide safe abortion services.

How vulnerable are young girls to poor medical practice and unsafe abortion?
Globally, highly criminalised and unsafe abortion burdens girls and young women disproportionately. The stigma prompts secrecy, silence, and shame – all of which can lead to delayed care, increased health risks, and in some instances, can result in life-threatening ways to end an unwanted pregnancy. Young people’s sexuality is highly stigmatised encountering deaths due to unsafe abortion that maybe a result of early marriage, patriarchal society or devaluing female children. Besides many other barriers, there’s the stigma that exists around abortion, especially when those who discriminate against women who had abortions, or choose this option. So, many young girls choose unsafe abortion thinking that it is cheaper but they are unaware of the threat to their life.