MOZAMBIQUE – Ob-Gyns in Mozambique call to strengthen gender equality and access to safe abortion

In a year that saw access to reproductive health services diminish due to Covid-19 and associated restrictions, International Women’s Day 2021 provided a welcome opportunity to reflect on, learn about and advocate for important women’s health topics, including access to safe abortion.

According to the 2011 Demographic Health Survey, unsafe abortion was a leading cause of preventable maternal death in Mozambique, one of ten countries in FIGO’s Advocating Safe Abortion Project. In order to reverse this dramatic situation that affects girls and women, the new Penal Code of 2014 was approved (Law No.35/2014, 31 December), and was revised in 2019 (Law No. 24/2019, 24 December). It included in Article 168 modalities that make abortion non-punishable. With this inclusion, the possibility of a woman or girl being tried, convicted or prevented from having an abortion by any individual or health agent or by the State, if it is performed under the circumstances defined by law, has been eliminated.

In an April 2021 interview with the Domingo Newspaper, Professor António Bugalho said that there has been, in recent times, some significant reduction in relation to deaths resulting from unsafe abortion. The Associação Moçambicana de Obstetras e Ginecologistas (AMOG) has created educational communication resources on reproductive rights and health (including access to safe abortion) for diverse groups of health workers. Working with a wide range of partners, including the Ministry of Health, Ipas, DKT, Pathfinder International and PSI, AMOG have taken a leadership role in coordinating advocacy efforts among the health workforce, with discussions based on the experience and knowledge of participants in the area of health service delivery in Mozambique.

The result was a document with messages identified as relevant and appropriate according to the different target audiences. This best-practice guide will serve for the production of several communication materials used by the Ministry of Health and partners to inform citizens and communities about safe abortion, and also contribute to the improvement of health services in the country. The messages will be integrated into communication formats with proven effectiveness in Mozambique – such as radio programmes, magazines mixing entertainment and information, and community theatre plays – and adjusted to the medium used and the most appropriate type of language for the target audiences.

AMOG collaborated with the Social Communication Institute to assess the most effective method to strengthen awareness of safe abortion services, and how women and girls can claim their rights. They examined local learning about barriers to women’s participation in interactive radio shows which highlight gender inequalities. They used these insights to tailor their own community radio initiatives, making sure that they reached women and girls, as well as making sure that those responding did not feel stigmatised for answering questions about abortion. The radio shows, in local languages, reached across five provinces, with an audience of around 870,000 people during ‘Women’s Month’.

FULL REPORT: FIGO News, by Eunice Themba, Project Manager, ACOG, 30 April 2021 ; PHOTO  from FIGO News article