Community Development Education Health

Unsafe backyard abortions worrisome: Shamwari Yemwanasikana

Ekenia Chifamba

By Marlvin Ngiza

Girls and young women movement, Shamwari YeMwanasikana has raised concerns over the increase of fatalities caused by unsafe backyard abortions.

Shamwari YeMwanasikana Founding Director Ekenia Chifamba expressed the need to review laws that regulate the termination of pregnancy and set harsh penalties for people who take part in unsafe backyard abortions.

She expressed the need to ensure the free provision and access to contraception for girls and young women in order to reduce unintended pregnancies.

“According to the Guttmacher Institute, roughly 121 million unintended pregnancies occurred each year between 2015 and 2019. Of these unintended pregnancies, 61% ended in abortions. This then translates to 73 million abortions per year. Furthermore, the proportion of unintended pregnancies that ended in abortion was 51% in 1990-1994 and it then increased by 61% by 2015-2019. Guttmacher states that in 2016 an estimated 65,300 induced abortions occurred in Zimbabwe. This translates to 17 abortions for every 1000 women and girls from 15 to 49 years of age.

“As Shamwari YeMwanasikana we are alarmed and disheartened by the increase in the number of deaths due to unsafe backyard abortions. There is an alarming increase in deaths caused by unsafe backyard abortions, so there is a need to also revisit the laws that regulate termination of pregnancy which is the Termination of Pregnancy Act 1977 and ensure access to SRHR services freely. There is a need to sensitize communities on unsafe backyard abortion, normalizing conversations on abortion. Penalties should be given to people who facilitate or take part in backyard abortions,” said Chifamba.

Chifamba added that societal norms and traditions are contributing to teen pregnancy. She expressed displeasure in societies that are not reporting cases of sexual abuse, child marriages and teen pregnancy. The women empowerment advocate called on citizens to expose such societies.

“This shows how society has been consumed by societal norms and traditions, thus a need to advocate and raise more awareness on the effects of child marriages and highlight how we can overcome the challenge. Rural areas are mostly associated with child marriages because of historical arrangements and traditions. There is a need to engage and expose societies that are still taking advantage of the girl child and abusing them in the name of marriage,” added Chifamba.

Meanwhile, Chifamba indicated that her organization is working tirelessly towards the reduction of abortions, teen pregnancy and child marriages through ensuring that young women and girls have free access to sexual reproductive health and rights(SRHR) services, education and counselling.

“Basically we are focusing on ensuring the access to sexual reproductive health and rights (contraception) for young women and girls. Thus, we also offer counselling and referrals to young women and girls to specific organizations that can assist them to fully understand the essence of SRHR and its components.

” We are also working effortlessly to ensure that young girls fully attain their rights and focus on their development, for the betterment of their future. We have also embarked on a campaign through an on-wheels initiative on sexual reproductive health and gender-based violence in our areas of operation in partnership with the Ministry of Health and Child Care, Women Affairs ministry, the Victim Friendly Unit of the Zimbabwe Republic Police, Social welfare and the District Development Coordination office since 2020. The  Information service on wheels was done in Chihota last year with support from the World Health Organization. Discussions around sexual reproductive health are also done on our Dandaro platforms online and physically within the communities that we work in,” said Chifamba.

Shamwari YeMwanasikana has successfully established sexual reproductive health hubs in Murehwa, Seke rural, Chitungwiza and Chihota for information dissemination on sexual reproductive health as well as counselling services provided through their Girls Protection and Support services department.

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Byron Adonis Mutingwende