In Gabon, demographics is a sensitive political issue, due to its small population. 52% of the Gabonese population is under the age of 25. Because of sexual permissiveness, premarital and early relationships are common. Pregnancies are most often early, unwanted and too close together, leading to frequent abortions, STIs and increased infertility.
Long banned, modern contraception was only liberalised in the year 2000. Lack of access to information and counselling on birth spacing has meant that abortions practised in poor conditions were for many women the only available method of family planning. Here are some data from the 2012 Gabon Demographic and Health Survey:
– Maternal mortality stands at 316 deaths per 100,000 live births, mainly due to illegal abortions;
– 28% of girls aged 15-19 have already had a child or have been pregnant. By age 19, more than half have already proven their fertility;
– Modern contraceptive methods are used by barely 14.3% of the population. One in four women would like to limit their fertility but do not have access to the relevant information or services;
– 45% of girls in secondary schools have already had an illegal abortion;
– 64% of women say they would like to have more children (linked to secondary infertility following unsafe abortions);
– 56% of women report having experienced domestic violence (emotional, physical or sexual).
Why this project?
Port Gentil is the economic capital of Gabon, an oil and timber town of around 170,000 people. I have been living here for more than 17 years. As a practising gynaecologist, I am only too aware of the situation of women here. I’m tired of seeing young girls get pregnant too early; young women who are infertile from having too many abortions; women with multiple children who are again pregnant by chance, not by choice; not to mention the scourge of HIV and sexually transmitted infections.
With a view to promoting sustainable development within our community, I have founded an association whose goal is to promote a healthy, responsible and fulfilling sexuality, the benefits of family planning and its positive impact on the whole society in terms of improving the overall health of the community:
– reducing maternal mortality and morbidity
– reducing infant mortality
– improving living standards by choosing the size of one’s family
– encouraging safe sexual practices, and
– empowering women above all.
Our Centre aims to have a welcoming atmosphere, offering listening and counselling without prejudice or restrictions to young people in search of information about their emotional and sexual lives.
– We organise conferences/discussions in schools, business and communities (religious or others).
– We carry out campaigns in schools to raise awareness on different themes such as HIV, or sexual violence.
– We encourage local television and radio stations to cover our activities, so as to convey our prevention messages to as many people as possible.
– We are training sexual health educators (volunteers and young peer volunteers).
– We have set up a “Youth Counselling Centre” offering a warm welcome, a receptive ear and free and confidential advice to youth.
– We would like one day to become a truly integrated family planning centre as well as a centre for studies on sexual health in collaboration with various local and international partners.
SOURCE: Information sheet 2016; PHOTO