THE YOUNG ACTIVIST NETWORK FOR ABORTION ADVOCACY (YANAA)
7 June 2022
Report by Wafa Adam, YANAA Steering Committee MemberEdited by Shruti Arora, YANAA Coordinator
The Young Activist Network for Abortion Advocacy held a 75-minute roundtable discussion, on the 7th of June 2022, as part of its Youth Advocates Talk Abortion Workshop Series. YANAA invited four speakers who were participants in the workshop series to talk about activism from their own contexts. The discussion was moderated by YANAA coordinator, Shruti Arora. The discussion focused on the following four questions:
- What are the key challenges young people face in your country/region, especially in the context of safe abortion? How do you think these challenges can be overcome?
- Do you use the Internet and social media in your activism? What are your demands for making social media and the Internet safer for abortion rights activism?
- How might the US Supreme Court overturning the Roe Vs Wade judgement impact young people’s rights or your work on abortion rights in your country or region?
- What message would you like to give to other young abortion rights advocates?
Speakerscampaign to decriminalize abortion in the Philippines. Kristina Mayaholtrop is from rural Washington State in the Pacific Northwest of the US. Kristina began her activism by founding a regional Action Council for Planned Parenthood in her small hometown, and has served as a board member of the state-wide advocacy non-profit “Pro-Choice Washington”. Kristina is now finishing a master’s degree in Public Policy and Human Development from the United Nations University-MERIT in The Netherlands and is writing her thesis on the association between abortion access and poverty in the US. Vanessa Suin is a feminist activist from Ecuador. Vanessa is working with the NGO Sendas, which specializes in the work of promoting and defending Human Rights. Focused on women, girls, boys, adolescents, the rights of the LGBTIQ+ population, Sexual Rights and Reproductive Rights. Beatriz Rotoli is a feminist advocate for sexual and reproductive rights of young women and their intersectionality. Born in Brazil and currently living in Italy, Beatriz is the Coordinator of the European Youth Network on Sexual and Reproductive Rights, working with and for young people on issues such as meaningful youth participation and access to SRHR services. Beatriz holds a Master’s degree in Human Rights and Multi-Level Governance, for which she has developed her thesis in the access of safe abortion care for asylum seekers and refugee women in Italy. The video recording of the discussion is available here. Context setting We are witnessing multiple uncertainties and crises in the world today − global pandemics, the climate crisis, wars, fundamentalism, authoritarianism, shrinking spaces for citizen participation, backlash against human rights activists, internet shutdown and censorship by big tech companies. Global inequalities in the world due to political, social, and economic factors is another reality. The young people who are witnessing the crises of today are also the leaders for social change in the society. They are often the leaders of feminist movements, reproductive justice and climate justice movements and queer movements. Their activism for social justice is important to build a fair and equal world. The roundtable discussion has four young abortion rights activists as speakers who are working with the same principles and values for strengthening social justice movements. They work with women and other young people in their regions to increase their access to safe abortion. Discussion highlights: Key challengesSarryna Gesite is a Networking Officer at Women’s Global Network for Reproductive Rights (WGNRR). WGNRR is a global network that builds and strengthens movements for sexual and reproductive health rights (SRHR), and justice. Their work is grounded in the realities of those who most lack economic, social, and political power. As the Networking Officer, Sarryna coordinate WGNRR’s networking and movement strengthening work in the Philippines, particularly on the
- The laws on abortion are one of the biggest challenges in our activism. One of the things that everybody spoke about are the legal and policy challenges. The laws are very restrictive and only under certain circumstances is abortion accessible.
- Intersectionality was also highlighted in how access to safe abortion is limited. Age and social class impacts people’s access to abortion. Poor young women for example, due to power imbalances in society, may not be able to access safe abortion.
- Everyone talked about comprehensive sexuality education, which is not available to young people. A lot of young people also do not have information related to abortion, or where they can access safe abortion. That may lead to their deaths.
- Additionally, religious challenges were touched upon. Religion influences people’s mind-sets, and it actually stigmatizes abortion. Because of which, a lot of people, especially young people, may fear accessing abortion.
- Another interesting point was about service provision and the scarcity of service providers. Service providers are not getting trained on providing safe abortion, which may lead to young people accessing unsafe abortion.
- A stimulating point was around fake news that may be absurd but gets circulated and gets a lot of traction, especially among young people. We actually need to find ways to provide correct information, and at a scale at which fake news actually gets circulated. Because as we all know, fake news does get circulated at mass scale.
- One of the speakers mentioned that sexual and reproductive health rights need to be decolonized. This is an interesting aspect of advocacy that needs to be discussed more − how do we decolonize SRHR.
The Internet and social media for abortion rights activism:
- One of the vital things that came out is on the polarization of information that we see on social media. That there are polarized sentiments, and of course what we see and what for example anti-rights movement people might be seeing is very different. It is also based on online search histories, etc. That also contributes to polarization.
- There are a lot of threats that abortion rights activists might get on the internet or social media. Profiling of abortion rights activists is very easy now with big tech companies and governments being involved in the internet space. Safety of abortion rights activists is therefore an important concern.
- Big tech companies such as Facebook can sometimes censor information. Information can be reported by anybody and that might lead to shutting down certain accounts or censoring some posts without justification.
- The other problem on social media is fake news. Fake news gets circulated really fast and people are not always equipped to verify the information. There needs to be more trainings for young people, for activists, to inform them how to verify news, how to check if the information is correct or not.
- Further, one of the speakers reminded us that prior to the Roe v. Wade judgement in 1973, we did not have the internet. But today abortion pills are available online and people can potentially have more access, important especially because Roe v. Wade is likely to be overturned. What will happen to online access, however? That might also get impacted.
- Social media has much larger outreach and that is why it is probably very important for our work. The language has to be youth-friendly. It needs be catchier for young people when we’re talking on social media.
- One of the attention-grabbing things that a speaker said is that anti-rights movements in Latin America use branding that is similar to what we use. We should make sure that people do not confuse our work with what the anti-right movements are doing.
Impact of Roe V Wade judgement on other parts of the world:
- The clearest point made in terms of the impact of the Roe v Wade judgment is that in other parts of the world it is going to affect social attitudes on abortion. In a scenario where what the U.S. does is the reference point, it might have long-lasting impacts that we cannot know right now.
Key message for other young abortion rights advocates:
- Young people are leaders of today, that needs to be said too. We are stronger together, as a network. It’s very important to join our voices globally.
campaigns can actually fit their language, address their present needs, and find solutions suitable to their situations. WGNRR also keeps in close touch with other advocates and supporters too, as we know all stakeholders in this discussion should be consulted and participate in this advocacy. Kristina In North America, Roe v. Wade might be overturned. At the moment, the right to abortion up to viability is protected under federal law thanks to a Supreme Court decision in 1973 called Roe v. Wade. However, the Supreme Court now has a conservative majority due to the appointment of three judges by Donald Trump. Last December, they agreed to hear a case called Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which directly challenges this precedent, so there is the potential for Roe v. Wade to be completely overturned or pulled back severely. A decision is expected to come out this month. Abortion access in the U.S. is very complicated because it varies widely by state even now, with Roe v. Wade still protected at the federal level, and it will vary even more by state if Roe v. Wade is overturned. What overturning it means is that the decision will be passed down to the individual states to make whatever abortion laws they want. Oklahoma just passed the first flat-out abortion ban, starting from the moment of conception, since Roe v. Wade. The situation is bad and escalating but the good news is that abortion clinics will remain open in blue states. Also there’s a huge abortion rights movement that will mobilize around this issue. I’m not exactly sure what it will look like if Roe v. Wade is overturned, because we as Americans have taken this for granted for almost 50 years. It was during the civil rights movement, it was part of the fight for gender justice and racial justice that was part of this movement in the 1960s and 70s and now we’re going backwards. If and when Roe v. Wade is overturned, the United States will look like a patchwork of abortion access. Some states will completely ban it, some will severely restrict it, some are passing abortion protections in anticipation of Roe v. Wade being overturned because they know they will get an influx of people seeking abortion care, who couldn’t get where they live, travelling to their state. Analysts are predicting that if and when Roe v. Wade is overturned, approximately 26 of the 50 states are likely to restrict or outright ban abortion. That’s the situation and it’s scary, but that’s why we are here. Vanessa The situation in Ecuador is honestly a little complicated. Last year, the Constitutional Court approved a law allowing abortion due to sexual abuse or rape. Then it went to the General Assembly to create a new law. But the law that was approved is a very limiting law. The purpose of the demand was that girls and people who are survivors of sexual abuse or rape would not be forced to become mothers. We are talking about a violation of rights, so the situation is concerning to activists and the feminist movement in Ecuador. Even though Ecuador is a country that has policies and laws that defend and guarantee rights of all individuals, when the government implements them it becomes very complicated. Given the current government and the policies that we currently have, ensuring that these rights are met is very difficult. The current government is always mentioning religion, and have this bias. We know that at the global level religious beliefs are what influence the population, so we have this bias that limits and violates women’s rights and women’s right to decide. As a feminist movement in Ecuador what we are doing is to get organized, to get together to continue working. We are doing something that has helped us keep going for years. For example, we had a historic fight that allows us to be here talking. Before, we weren’t even able to do this. So, something that we value very much is to have a voice. What the feminist movement is doing right now is fundamental, these spaces are necessary to be able to relay this message to everyone, to say that we are here and we exist. This is something that is used a lot in our feminism, that we are here − in our bodies and in our territory. We are defending collective rights, because we go from the individual to the collective to generate something. We have submitted some demands so that the law would comply with the Court’s ruling. This ruling is a broad, open ruling so that any survivor of sexual abuse should be able to access abortion. In Ecuador abortion has been legal since the 1990s so what we’re doing is expanding that. We have information campaigns and events where we provide workshops so more young people, teenagers and activists can improve the way they express their views and can say why we defend this right − the right to a life with dignity where all persons can live well and free of violence. This is what we’re saying here, we’re not saying all women want to have an abortion. I feel that this is something that we find when we participate in certain spaces, but the reality is that all women should have the right to have an abortion. There are women having abortions every day. They’re dying because of unsafe and clandestine abortions. Because even if a state has policies that repress abortion that does not mean that women will not access abortion. They will have unsafe abortions and this means that they will continue dying through these unsafe practices. What states have to do is to guarantee rights, because safe abortion is a right, as a public health service. Beatriz I will share two perspectives on these two questions. The first one is through my experience as a Brazilian living in Brazil, and the second as a migrant in Italy. In Brazil, the first main challenge we face is the law. It is only legal to have an abortion if the health of the woman is at risk or if the pregnancy is a result of a sexual assault. Even in these cases, there is almost no information on the abortion procedure itself (how it works, if you’re going to use pills or have a surgical procedure) and we also don’t have information on how to access these. It is also well known that it can take a lot of time to get approval on whether a person can have an abortion or not, affecting of course the time frame within which you can have the abortion under the law. Talking specifically about young people, it is important to mention that in Brazil there is a huge lack of sexuality education. That influences the ability of young people taking informed decisions. There is also a lot of stigma associated with this topic and tons of absurd fake news addressed to parents for them to prevent this information from getting to their children. Consequently, there are many young women who get pregnant, and with no information and no access to safe abortion care there are several cases of people who search for unsafe abortion services. Some of them die and some of them suffer from complications. Nevertheless, there is a group that actually has access to safe services, that is rich, white women. They are part of some bubbles and they can still find gaps in the system and pay for safer abortion procedures although they are still illegal. I would furthermore like to point out the problem of some religious universities, that are very big in Brazil, who do not even teach their medical students how to perform an abortion. Actually, not even allowing them to talk about this topic inside the university. So who can perform safe abortions in the future? Who will not only have the knowledge of the techniques but also be able to provide a service that is accessible for young people and without stigma? In addition, abortion rights activists are constantly investigated by the police. Talking about this issue can be very hard at the current moment in Brazil, as religious extremists are in power and they incentivise a lot of violence against anyone who has different opinions from their own. Finally, I would also like to add my perspective as a migrant woman in Italy where abortion is legal until 90 days’ gestation. Coming from Brazil I always had the impression that in Europe I would have the right to decide over my body and it would be respected. I thought abortion would be easily accessible with open-minded people performing abortions with a lot of respect. But to my shock, I discovered that in Italy there are also several barriers. One of them being conscientious objection, where healthcare professionals can refuse to perform an abortion, with some Italian regions having more than 85% of doctors claiming this. So it is very hard to find a doctor who will perform an abortion. Also, there is a mandatory waiting period for women to be sure of their decisions and other administrative barriers as well. (For example, one doctor ending a patient to another who will send them to another, or saying you will need to sign this paper, you will need to send this paper somewhere. In addition, there is a lot of very unclear information, they don’t exactly address the service, so you can be quite lost. On top of that migrant women additionally suffer from a lack of clear policies specific to migrant women. There are also language gaps between documents vs. services, a lack of cultural mediators and a lot of stigma and discrimination. Some doctors are even deciding if someone can have an abortion or not based on the patient’s religion or nationality. So if you’re a Muslim for example, a doctor can simply decide not to provide you this service because they think your religion will not allow it. Therefore, sustaining a power relationship where women are not even consulted about what they want for their own bodies. In Italy, I have found it even more difficult to advocate for abortion rights because they will not listen to a migrant woman. Besides, information can be so hard to find that sometimes it is even hard to find out to whom I should make my requests. This is due to each region in Italy being regulated by its own systems. If you move inside Italy, you will have lots of difficulties to find not only information but whom you can address your needs to. Just to add how I think these challenges can be overcome, I propose two ideas. The first one is to inform the population in very creative ways. Including building networks for this matter and especially targeting intersectional groups that are commonly marginalized. Hence, producing specific content for certain groups, for example, for young people and through that change the centre of power so they are informed people. In You Act, the organization I’m part of, we have recently done a workshop on giving the microphone to under-represented groups to discuss sexual and reproductive health and rights and working with and for young people on issues such as disabilities and sexual and reproductive health and rights, decolonizing the sorrow jar (SRHR) and also countering harmful practices. Moreover, I think it’s necessary to train the politicians and policy makers plus the healthcare providers to: (i) centre women’s needs in their policies and services; (ii) provide accessible information and services that we need and communication without stigma; (iii) include young people and marginalized groups as advisors and/or decision-makers on related activities. Second round of conversation In this section, the speakers answer the second two proposed questions: (c) Do you use the Internet and social media in your activism? What are your demands for making social media and the Internet safer for abortion rights activism? (d) How might the U.S. Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade impact young people’s rights or your work on abortion rights in your country or region? Sarryna Answering the first question, actually since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, WGNRR has started adapting and maximizing the features of social media in our activism. We acknowledge the digital divide that the technology has created when the world shifted online, but we have also seen the efficiency and help of social media and the internet in general to widen our reach and engagement in terms of the diversity and geographic locations of our target audience. However, the maximization of digital technology (social media in particular) poses a great threat to the privacy, safety and security of advocates and supporters. From our side and based on our personal experiences, social media companies should allow safe abortion rights advocates and supporters to express and publicize their posts, work and content by revisiting their Ads policies, which ban any posts related to abortion and also ban and prevent Ad-boosting on abortion, particularly on Facebook, which we personally experience. We really cannot boost any post once Facebook sees a word about abortion or a key term about abortion. So we are having a difficult time to really widen our outreach and engagement with the public, just because Facebook doesn’t want any information about abortion to be boosted online. We call on social media companies to be more impartial and supportive of these kinds of advocacies. Because if this continues to happen, Facebook in particular will just further contribute to the stigma created around abortion. It is also important that the safe abortion rights movement should create stronger digital security measures, to prevent attacks from the opposition. I think part of digital security trainings and workshops should include how to identify fake news and misinformation. We are experiencing that very much here this year in the Philippines. There’s so much misinformation posted, not only related to our political climate but also on sexual and reproductive health. We know for a fact that if a company like Facebook will not allow us to publicize our posts and widen our engagement and outreach to our audience, then it would likely be that people will still be misinformed about the facts and evidence-based data about abortion. This is really something that we should take note of and something that we have to work on in our movement, in solidarity building and networking. Digital security training and workshops should allow cross-regional participation that will emphasize these kinds of concerns and also see it as an effective way to protect advocates and supporters, foster greater solidarity and security measures among all regions and participants. In the second question, I can largely relate to what Kristina shared about the possible overturning of the U.S. Supreme Court on the Roe v. Wade case. We also acknowledge here in the Philippines, especially in WGNRR, that it might have a negative impact not only in the Philippines but globally. We are already seeing how this would really negatively affect safe abortion rights advocacy around the globe. In particular, funding for advocacy work with a focus on abortion rights could be hugely affected, greatly impacting how local safe abortion advocates and supporters in the Philippines would have to find a way to move around the restrictions and stigma to be able to progress our safe abortion rights work. It’s really difficult especially in a very restrictive setting with massive stigma around this issue. Focusing on our current campaign in the Philippines’ to decriminalize abortion. If the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, we are looking at probably conservative groups and those that are opposing abortion in the Philippines having more power and confidence to use this ruling against the advocates and advocacy itself. This would also negatively affect the public’s perception and the stance of policymakers, so again it would hugely affect our legal and policy advocacy measures and our work on the legislative side. This could also pose a greater possibility of attacks, harassment or threats to advocates and supporters and would further perpetuate the stigma around the abortion. We know that we would still work on these concerns or these challenges, but we also acknowledge that it would be much more challenging and there would be some added difficulty in our work. Additionally, young people would find it difficult to even talk about abortion for fear of being judged or stigmatized. All the more if they wanted to be part of this cause, because just hearing the word abortion would entail a lot of negative connotations and with this global issue that is really concerning everyone in abortion advocacy. We know that this will really have a huge impact on our work in the Philippines. Kristina I don’t know what more I could add about the second question, but I will start with how the internet and social media can be used in this work and in abortion activism. Primarily, if a vulnerable pregnant person can’t get support or information or care from their doctors or even their community, the social media and the internet are of course the only resource they have really. This wasn’t the case the last time abortion was illegal in the U.S., before the 1970s, when people were getting abortions underground through “doctors” that they heard about from their friends, and it was all underground. In that period, women would form direct action groups and teach each other about the female body, which a lot of people didn’t educate themselves on back then − and still don’t. Some learned how to self-manage their abortions. If all of that was going on back then, then we have an opportunity now to utilize social media and the internet to get reliable information out there to those who need it. Nowadays people can even order abortion pills online, to be mailed to them, which is a huge advantage. The medical breakthroughs in mifepristone and misoprostol since then have made abortion a lot easier and easier to manage so I have hope for that. On the flip side, the internet and social media are a cesspool of misinformation and that also fuels polarization. I’m sure we’ve all gotten into a fight on the internet, where people are just angry on Twitter and there are so many different myths about abortion that just go around. They just fester on the internet and on social media, and everyone’s just caught up in this fight. Nobody takes the time to fact check what they’re saying. Also, some posts related to abortion have been removed from social media platforms. Overall, I think the internet is definitely a net positive for this movement, but there are some challenges with that still. For the overturn of Roe v. Wade, I will say that in addition to the legal ramifications it also just emboldens the anti-abortion movement and contributes to the stigma of abortion. Besides, it is just a slap in the face of women really, and I’ll just echo what you said about that in terms of the social attitudes beyond the legal consequences. Vanessa I was thinking about the answers that you gave and I feel that the use of social media for us as a movement is important. It’s fundamental because indeed we can get to more people and more spaces. We work with communications campaigns. I’m going to answer both questions at the same time because I feel they’re related. We find out about what is happening with the Roe v. Wade court case specifically because of social media. Thus, we can have the strength, we can join the movement and can sort of participate virtually, which is something fundamental. There are many campaigns that exist through social media and there are demands that are heard because of the pressure that we create on social media. We’re there, we’re saying that we’re here, present and we’re not going to shut up. There isn’t a way to shut us up. I also think that because we had an educational process about the legal clause on risk to health (In Ecuador abortion is legal if the pregnancy adversely affects your health). In this workshop in February, one of our facilitators taught us something that I hadn’t seen before. We had an analysis of how the anti-rights movement studies what we do and what we say. There is a video from Colombia, on YouTube I think. It is an anti-rights group that is using the language and it’s using the expressions that we use in the feminist movement, they even copied our colours. We have to pay attention to this and take care of not confusing the work we do on social media with theirs. Even though there are those of us who have this social education that can recognize the fake news or this false news. How do we help the people who are getting confused, who are not clear on the fact that abortion is a public health issue, should be guaranteed by the state and that abortion is something that should be addressed by every state in every region? So that women stop dying. So that girls stop being forced to be mothers. This is the noise that I’m leaving behind, of how do we make sure that the work that we do in our social media is not confused with the work that the anti-rights groups are doing. I would ask you to check the pages of our organization. Find us in social media so that you can see the work that we do and how we try to create an understandable language for everyone. Something else that is very important that was mentioned by Kristina is that now you can buy the pills to access the service. I think this is a question maybe for later but how do we guarantee this right? How can the internet be used as an access to rights that sometimes unfortunately our states do not fulfil? To add on how Ecuador would be affected by the overturning of Roe v. Wade. It is going to have global impact. In Latin America, Argentina is a reference, but we do have a global reference of the U.S in terms of sexual and reproductive rights. So, yes, it would have impact but it’s something we have already experienced. We already have governments that are repressive. That’s something I want to mention because it’s very important, how our voice when we speak as activists and we defend sexual and reproductive rights, we are exposed and the government starts profiling us. It may be true that you make your own decisions and you speak with your voice. However, government repression or state repression towards activists is very concerning. We also have to consider how many people disappear, how many people have died because of this. Beatriz The organization I work for makes a lot of use of this online environment, which I believe is very useful. We have the chance to kind of play with youth-friendly information and we can help to diminish this stigma, having this very light conversation with young people. In regard to the demands for having this safer online environment, I think the first thing is that fake news about abortion needs to be addressed. I think most of us are getting on our social media a message that appears when you mention Covid-19, that you need to search for a trustworthy source to confirm the information you are reading; they will address you to the World Health Organization website. Why don’t we have this with abortion topics? It’s easy because they have done this in less than six months with Covid-19. Why don’t we have this with abortion? The abortion topic has existed since the beginning of the internet. This would be very useful. The other thing I will discuss is us not being allowed to talk about abortion. Even when we just do a search about this topic on any social media, tons and tons of anti-abortion content will appear but almost nothing of pro-choice content. This is not because we are not producing good content but because the social media enterprises are silencing us. It seems that they just choose to be against women’s lives and needs. This has to be changed; we need to be heard, we need to be able to speak and we need to be able to search for information. Lastly, I believe governments need to hold accountable the institutions, organizations, movements and individuals that are spreading violent, stigmatized and fake information about abortion on the internet. Because the internet is not no one’s land, we need to hold people accountable for their actions. Regarding the decision in the United States, I think it definitely incentivized a backlash in my own country. I likewise think the United States is a reference for Brazil. I think that the government will find this an ideal moment to take some of our rights away, so I think it is very dangerous to create this moment. Apart from that, I think this generates a general backlash against the discussion of sexual and reproductive rights. Because abortion is not our only demand but we need to keep discussing about it again and again and again. This is very tiring, we have much more to discuss and much more to explore. Finally, I also think this creates a very unhealthy environment for our mental health. We are always afraid that our rights will be taken away out of nowhere. It’s like our rights are always on the edge and we never know until when we will have our bodily autonomy respected or not. So yes, this decision affects all of us directly and indirectly. Third round of conversation This section answers the last proposed question: (e) What message would you like to give to other young abortion rights advocates? Sarryna As a young person, as all of us are, advocating for safe abortion rights is challenging. I started doing this advocacy and I was learning a lot, but as the years go by it really becomes more challenging. Nonetheless, it’s also more fulfilling as a young person. Because I get the privilege and the opportunity to really be part of abortion advocacy; this work that most people either would not be aware of, or would not be courageous enough to be part of it for fear of being stigmatized, extra. We know that advocating for safe abortion rights, especially as a young person, is very challenging, particularly at this point where laws are regressing and the opposition is really trying to make a dent or even destroy what we have done to progress women’s rights and women’s health. I would also like to remind my fellow young people, young advocates, that we always have to remember that youth is also now. We are the ones who will continue and sustain the fight to push for change. As people who are also in this field, let’s not forget how our passion, motivations, strength experiences, challenges, difficulties beside our years of dedication can actually contribute to the change that we want to see. We always say that the youth are the future. That the young people will always create the change that we want to be in the future. Accordingly, we really have to take care of them, protect them and acknowledge their right to make informed decisions. We also have to remember that we are there now; we have the strength, the energy and the opportunity to fight and to push forward. Kristina I also have a couple of tips for young people. I remember when I was younger, 19 or something, I was very passionate about this topic, but it’s just so depressing. Like how could I make a career out of this, that would just be so emotionally demanding. Then, the work that I got involved with − I was working in accounting at the time – was to do a fellowship with an organization that does advocacy for this issue and I helped them by putting the skills that I had to work. I created a scorecard for all of the state legislatures in my state. I was just doing spreadsheet work and from the comfort of my bedroom. So you don’t necessarily have to like to be on the front lines and get yelled at by counter protesters all the time. I would say find a space that you can fill, and fill that. The other thing I would say is to surround yourself with other pro-choice advocates or at least people who support you, because that makes a world of a difference. I remember when I was volunteering for Planned Parenthood. It was just a small activism, a side thing that I did while I was working in accounting. I organised a booth at a farmer’s market in my small home town for Planned Parenthood where we would just give people information, resources, and hand out stickers. There was a booth next to me that was very hostile. The guy at the booth next to me. I remember when I got there and I was setting up. It was just me there and I was like oh, today is going to be so hard. Then the rest of the volunteers that I was managing showed up, and we talked about it together. We supported each other. That actually makes you feel so much better. Even if this work is very gruelling and it’s very depressing sometimes, and you feel sometimes powerless against everything that’s going on. Just remember that we are the pro-choice majority and we’re all working on this together. Vanessa I’ll go with what Kristina has said. So I would say this. Feminism and putting your body and your voice there is time and it’s energy. Something else I personally think is very important in activism is self-care. Self-care to give ourselves time to feel. I mean I have all of this going on in the outside, but I also have to check how I’m doing inside. To feel that I’m doing well inside, that I can keep myself and keep fighting these processes, is important. There is a phrase by Dolores Cacuango, who is one of the first Ecuadorian feminists, an indigenous leader. She says that we are like the grass in the prairies that is taken out and keeps growing. So we are that, we are a network. We are here together in this virtual room right now, we are able to send this message, we are able to share our experiences with others. It is all fundamental and is important. I am not the only one in Ecuador doing activism, I have a network of sisters and colleagues. It’s true it depends on where we’re at. Even though it may be true my work right now is in an institutional organization, but at 16 and 17 years old, I was on the streets and I was skipping university. It depends on where we’re at, what we’re doing, and where we see the contributions that we can make at that moment in our lives. We know that what we all do, it adds up. If I share an image of the companion network in my country, I’m helping and I’m providing a message to other women and persons capable of giving birth. This is what makes a difference from anti-abortion group styles. We’re defending a life with dignity, and we are defending all the persons capable of being pregnant. We’re supporting diversity and we’re going to continue expressing our voices. I’m very happy to have participated in this and to be able to have you hear how the south, the southern part of the globe, is doing. Besides, have revolutionary love, this is what maintains our processes. When you feel that you can’t go on any more, you have to feel that you’re not alone. Because we’re not alone, we have a network, we have people next to us. There’s always someone that we can go to, write to, call. Actually, the logo of the network for women’s health in Latin America and the Caribbean is to look for this support, this network that supports us. Any act adds up and this is what helps us expand and reach. Beatriz I will similarly focus on mental health because I think it’s something very important for the moment, to be your person right now. My message for young people is to continue believing in themselves and stay creative in their work, having fun when they can have fun. Balancing this with attention to their own mental health. Because if we are not healthy we cannot advocate and if we don’t advocate, we are not able to fight structures of oppression. Above everything, take care of yourself. To continue promoting change, each one of us is very important to this fight. Closing reflections by the moderator You’ve put it very beautifully, Vanessa. What you said in terms of mental health, emotional work that we do sometimes and having burnout. But also remembering that self-love, self-care, as well as love for each other in the movements, is very important. It’s really interesting that we started talking about challenges and what we are facing in our own regions, to end on this note of love, solidarity and self-care. So, I will end by thanking all four of the speakers for sharing their reflections with us. Thank you, Carmina, for translation, and thank you, Wafa, for the documentation. Lastly, heartfelt thanks to the Global Fund for Women for supporting this event.TRANSCRIPT OF THE FULL DISCUSSION First round of conversation In this section the speakers answer the first two proposed questions: (a) What are the key challenges young people face in your country/region, especially in the context on safe abortion? (b) How do you think these challenges can be overcome? Sarryna In the Philippines abortion is highly restricted. Even though, a reproductive health law was passed in 2012, young people and especially minors have limited access to sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) information and services. Comprehensive sexuality education is yet to be implemented. These legal barriers hinder young people from exercising their right to SRH. Furthermore, young people are stigmatised and judged when trying to assert their right to access SRH information and services, especially by older generations. This is worsened when young people try to access safe abortion. Since abortion is highly restricted in Philippines, even how to get reliable information on it is not possible for many young people who need it. Young people who may need abortion services have to undergo risky methods, often back alley abortions, which endanger their lives and may result in complications. Also the older generation would just advise young girls to continue the pregnancy, despite the risks it may pose to them. Because here in the Philippines, we are still very much surrounded by our religious beliefs. We still see carrying the fetus or giving birth as a sign of blessing. Of course with this situation, particularly stigma and religious opposition are still the main challenges to our advocacy for safe abortion rights. Because of the ingrained stigma of abortion in our culture, mainly brought by religious and fundamentalist groups, the larger population, including young people, still think that abortion is immoral or a sin. This stigma and influence of the church greatly affect the passage of progressive laws on SRHR. They really have a great hold on what laws should be passed, especially if they deal with reproductive health, women’s rights or even young people’s rights. Presently, WGNRR ensures that safe abortion rights advocacy is also intersectional in its approach. Also, that safe abortion rights advocacy is seen through a human rights lens, as a public health issue and a social justice issue. Besides, we ensure that young people are consulted and are invited in every step of the way. We really take note of young people’s capacity to decide for themselves. We engage with them on a deeper level to know how our advocacy and