THE Women’s Action Group of Zimbabwe (WAG) is making use of the SAFE ENGAGE (Strengthening Evidence Based Policy to Expand Access to Safe Abortion) media tool to communicate the country’s illegal abortion scenario to various key stakeholders in a bid to raise awareness on Zimbabwe’s abortion situation as well as familiarize communities with the country’s Termination of Pregnancy Act (TOP).
By Michael Gwarisa
Amongst some of the groups that have benefited from WAG’s sensitization programs are Senators, Parliamentarians, traditional leaders, midwives and recently nurses.
Speaking during a half day SAFE ENGAGE Dissemination Workshop with the Zimbabwe Nurses Association, WAG Programs Officer Fiona Tinarwo said illegal abortions still accounted for the high maternal deaths and complications in Zimbabwe and other African countries, hence the need for a simplified information dissemination tool such as the SAFE ENGAGE media package.
Unsafe abortions account for one in 10 maternal deaths in Africa. More than one and a half million women are treated each year for complications from unsafe abortion. Reducing deaths from unsafe abortion requires an enabling policy environment including access to comprehensive prevention and treatment services.
“Zimbabwe was identified as an important country for the SAFE ENGAGE project among other seven countries. Despite having some of the highest rates of contraceptive use in Sub-Saharan Africa, maternal mortality rates remain extremely high in Zimbabwe,” said Tinarwo.
She added that the SAFE ENGAGE Media Tool was aimed at Initiating dialogue on SRHR service delivery, legal and cultural barriers to accessing services, strengthen Evidence Based Policy to Expand Access to Safe Abortion project, support the ongoing work on abortion in Zimbabwe as well as create an enabling policy environment to expand access to safe abortion in Zimbabwe.
“The SAFE ENGAGE Taskforce comprises of the Ministry of Health and Child Caren, the technical chair of the Task force, the Women’s Action Group- Secretariat and organizing partner of SAFE ENGAGE in Zimbabwe as well as in-country partners that are working on abortion in Zimbabwe and also representing other abortion networks or coalitions in Zimbabwe.”
The purpose of the SAFE ENAGE tool is also to summarizes and package evidence, data and facts on abortion in Zimbabwe.
“Consolidated evidence and messaging is easy to relay to audience/ policy makers. The tool seeks to capture multi-sectorial target groups using one communication tool – the tool speaks to service providers, CSOs, Gvt, legal as well as to ensure one language when it comes to abortion and our key asks- the compass,” added Tinarwo.
Meanwhile, the Zimbabwe Nurses Association (ZINA) president, Mr Enoch Dongo said sensitizing nurses and health workers was key as they also contribute to the high illegal abortion cases in Zimbabwe since in some cases, they give girls and women medications and remedies to use in terminating pregnancies.
“We have to put our hands together and lobby for amendment of the Zimbabwe’s abortion law. We really need to address the obstacles to safe abortions and ensure women and girls get access tom these services as at when and where they need them.
“You really see that something has to be done as country in as far as abortions are concerned. Truly speaking, as nurses and other medical personal, we also contribute in terms of trying to give knowledge that we know it all and we can assist even those who want to carry out illegal abortions at their homes. We tell people that we can give you this and that so that you can terminate the pregnancy and that has to be discouraged,” said Mr Dongo.
Meanwhile, WAG Executive Director Mrs Edinah Masiyiwa said nurses encounter patients who would have illegally aborted or attempted to terminate pregnancies in the casualty units and they were a critical constituency and needed to be sensitized around the country’s TOP.
“We are here to advocate and promote women’s rights and one of the areas of focus for us is sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR). We really see nurses and midwives playing a major part in that area. We also work on Gender Based Violence (GBV) and we also work on transformative leadership and we also respond to emergencies when they occur in Zimbabwe.
“As such, we really are pleased to be working with nurses and midwives. We have had so many engagements with the midwives. The issues of illegal abortions are happening and we believe nurses come in handy since they are ones who attend to these issues on daily basis,” said Mrs Masiyiwa.
Zimbabwe is currently operating under a 1977 Termination of Pregnancy ACT V (No. 29 of 1977). In the Zimbabwe context, abortion is defined as a spontaneous or induced termination of pregnancy before 22 weeks of gestation or delivery of foetus less than 500 grams foetal weight.