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UNFPA urges honest debate on abortion

HONG—The problem is failure to implement plans

UNFPA Resident Representative in Malawi Dr Young Hong has said abortion is a serious matter which various stakeholders should discuss with soberness.

Hong said this during a three-day youth conference in Lilongwe organised by the First Alliance National Youth Conference on Safe Abortion.

She said abortion is an issue that touches the most intimate issues of individual control of one’s body.

“It involves deep realms of personal integrity where the authority of the state never has the final say. It causes psychological trauma and it is a population issue,” she said.

Hong said it was about time the youth treated abortion as a last option and not a first option.

“For you young boys using condoms should come as a first priority as one will be protecting himself from sexually transmitted diseases such as HIV or STIs and secondly you would be preventing yourself from having unwanted pregnancies.

“For you girls if the boys refuse to use a condom just know that she does not love you at all for love comes with responsibility,” she warned over 40 participants who attended.

Hong outlined the role that UNFPA plays in promoting universal access to sexual and reproductive health in Malawi, adding that their first priority is SRHR which has a component of safe abortion.

She reiterated UNFPA commitment to supporting the the government with SRHR programmes that are in line with government priorities.

During the conference, Dr. Francis Makiya who is also a Secretary General for Coalition for Prevention of Unsafe Abortion in Malawi (Copua) said that the 2015 survey on magnitude of unsafe abortion established that 141, 044 women induced abortion every year.

Speaking at the same conference whose theme was Breaking the Barriers to Safe Abortion – It`s Time for The Youth to Lead, Chairperson of the Alliance for Youth Organization John Bamusi said unsafe abortion was a public health problem in Malawi which requires focus and collective attention hence the formation of the alliance.

Alliance Coordinator Prisca Kunsida said one of the unique things that have already been done is the establishment of “Alliance for Youth SRHR Organizations in Malawi (AYSO)” as network for girls, young women and other youth to promote safe abortion as a girls and young women right. “It is this Alliance that made every preparation for the conference.

The Alliance has now 50 youth organisations as members,” she said Pamela Mkwamba from UN Women Malawi said unsafe abortion was genderbased violence because of the mental torture a girl or woman undergoes before she decides to undertake abortion.

“The question we must ask is what drives this person to undergo abortion and where does she go for for help,” she asked.

She emphasized that access to safe abortion was a women right and it was up to the youth themselves to change the world and ensure that young women and girls are protected from unnecessary death.

On her part Director of Reproductive Health Services Fannie Kachale said her ministry supports the Termination of Pregnancy Bill.

She urged the youth to be strong partners in mobilizing the communities to respond effectively towards safe abortion issues.

Legal expert Julie Sibale said Penal Code in Sections 149, 150, 151, and 243 criminalises abortion and only allows it to save the mother’s life.

She said it was important to enact the proposed abortion law because “where abortion is permitted on broad legal grounds, it is generally safe but where it is highly restricted, it is typically unsafe,” she said.

At the conference three youths took time to share tales of unsafe abortion where they emphasized it was time Malawi enacted the Termination of Pregnancy Act which would help reduce unsafe abortions. The alliance will among other things take a multi-pronged approach which includes; evidence generation, advocacy and accountability strategies to influence the implementation of safe abortion laws and policies at national level using young people as agents of change.

It will also go beyond by focusing much on prevention of teen pregnancies and unwanted pregnancies.

Kunsida said they believe the first strategy in avoiding unsafe abortion is the prevention of pregnancy itself.

The Youth Alliance is here to mobilize and generate interest among young women and youth groups to participate in building movement that is increasing its voices in eliminating causes of unsafe abortion including advocating for liberalization of safe abortion laws in Malawi.

The Alliance will raise the capacity of youth organizations’ to be national leaders on sexual and reproductive health and rights and safe abortion.

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