This webinar is an important call for engagement at a time of rapidly shrinking civil society for organizing, in both regional and international spaces. Dwindling financial and human resources and political will to engage in spaces and convenings in Africa mean that fewer organisations are able or even willing to do this work. The influence of a number of global North countries that have elected conservative governments continue to bar substantial resource allocations to the continent for work that supports comprehensive sexual and reproductive health services; which includes work around abortion services. Despite this increased pull towards conservatism, other States have stepped in to fill this void. These efforts, while commendable, remain insufficient to meet the already overwhelming effects of illegal or unsafe abortions and denied post-abortion care.
Women’s bodies and reproduction remain a site of control and regulation in Africa and the rest of the world. This denial and forceful suppression of bodily autonomy remain deeply entrenched in various interpersonal as well as structural patriarchal frameworks. Women are considered second class citizens and denied the right and opportunity to make informed decisions about their lives and about their bodies. The role of religious institutions as influencers of the State and in society cannot be overlooked, as they are key agents of continued conservatism and advocates for the subjugation of women.
The taboo nature of abortion is also a primary deterrent for activists and lawmakers alike, who distance themselves from naming abortion as pertinent to the realisation of women’s human rights. Consequently, there is a reluctance from these activists/lawmakers in and demanding that abortion access becomes legal and available to women. Up-to-date and easily available information on abortion in Africa remains scarce, even in contexts with legal provisions for abortion, they are disregarded in favor of more conservative and oppressive practices or ideas around abortion. Lack of comprehensive sexuality education, lack of access to legal and social support, the absence of facilities and political will, are some of the issues that force women to seek illegal or unsafe abortions.
With statistics such as an estimated 90% of women of childbearing age live in countries with restrictive abortion legislation, or that the highest number of abortion related deaths occur in Africa alone, the cost of lives lost to unsafe abortions remains too high not to raise concern and demand action.
This webinar space will invite activists from North, East, Central and Southern Africa who will speak to the topic. The panel will feature people who advocate for access to safe abortion at a policy level, people who work with service providers as well as feminist activists that echo the call for bodily autonomy and freedom.
Key issues around abortion and the demand for autonomy in Africa that will be discussed include the influence of religious fundamentalism, culture and tradition as well as restrictive legal environments in pushing conservative ideas when it comes to abortion. Another issue that the panel will share ideas and strategies around is how access to abortion advocacy can be carried out in hostile social and legal environments. Lastly, the question of autonomy, what it means for the panelists as well as the work of abortion, will also be explored.
For more information on this exciting conversation, for a tweet-kit as well as directions on how to connect, please contact: