TACKLING THE STIGMA ASSOCIATED WITH WOMEN’S ACCESS TO SEXUAL AND REPRODUCTIVE HEALTHCARE

TACKLING THE STIGMA ASSOCIATED WITH WOMEN’S ACCESS TO SEXUAL AND REPRODUCTIVE HEALTHCARE

This year’s International Day of Action for Women’s Health is aimed at raising awareness about women’s sexual and reproductive health and rights.

Putting young people in the spotlight, we are taking action by amplifying the need for access to quality sexual and reproductive health services and without stigmatization from the society and healthcare providers.

Despite the restrictive laws of abortion in Nigeria which only permits abortion in the event of risk to the pregnant person’s life, the rate of abortion keeps going high with a larger percentage of  these procedures being unsafe.

According to research done by the Guttmacher Institute, an estimated 456,000 unsafe abortions are done in Nigeria every year.  This might be caused by the low prevalence of contraceptive use to prevent unplanned pregnancies by these numbers. As a result of this, women and girls who can not access basic sexual and reproductive health services might end up having unplanned pregnancies which might  in turn lead to abortions that are likely unsafe. 

In this part of the world, we tend to use conservative words when talking about issues related to sexual and reproductive health. These reservations have also affected the manner in which sexual and reproductive health services are rendered or even accessed by the people who need them. Normalizing sexual and reproductive health discussions will go a long way to reduce the stigma associated with accessing these services, and it is upon us  as young persons to initiate this change. When inclusive information on contraceptives use and methods for young women and girls irrespective of their marital status are made available, it will go a long way to reduce the rate of unsafe abortions.

While we call on the federal government to invest more in the health of women and girls by improving the health system in reviewing policies like the abortion laws that are road blocks to accessing safe abortion services/post abortion care, we implore the managements of  public and private health facilities to improve health service delivery by training service providers to offer youth-friendly health services to young women and girls without bias or stigma.

We call on community leaders to acknowledge that young people who are sexually active, also require sexual and reproductive services and as such, encourage conversations about these services. Also, the use of contraceptives for child spacing in family planning should be encouraged at community level. Women should be able to visit healthcare centers where they can get quality information on the use of contraceptives and other healthcare services for their well being.

Every young woman and girl owes it to her body to obtain optimum healthcare by having access to sexual and reproductive health information and services free from bias and stigmatization. Encouraging safe spaces for healthy conversations on sexual and reproductive health would go a long way towards achieving this.

Now is the time to take ACTION!

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