Rutgers works to end unsafe abortion in Ethiopia with key partners through behaviour change technology

This week, Rutgers took important steps in Ethiopia to realise ‘the dream’ as part of their She Makes Her Safe Choice Programme, committing to drastically reduce the number of unsafe abortions and funded by the Dutch National Postcode Lottery’s Dream Fund. As part of this ambitious dream, Rutgers has taken an innovative and courageous approach in the design and implementation of the programme.

By working with in-country partners that provide access to and information about sexual reproductive health services, and by working through a system that is founded on behavioural change technology, many disadvantaged women will be provided with a crucial and safe choice.

During their visit to Addis Ababa, the Rutgers team strategised with local partners as to the implementation and progress of the programme on the ground. This included visiting clinics of the Family Guidance Association of Ethiopia that provide safe abortion, as well as other fundamental sexual health services to low or no income and typically ‘out of reach’ young women, such a sex workers.

Tiko System

The programme is more than just the provision of safe abortion services, though, it applies a multi-pronged approached that is built on supply, demand and support. As part of this approach an innovative model has been developed, applying Triggerise’s Tiko System, a rewards-based mobile platform that motivates positive behavioural change. By accessing local sexual and reproductive health services, young women are rewarded with ‘Tiko Miles’ which they can spend on local products and services, such as groceries or a visit to the hair salon. Such an innovative and original system recognises that long term behaviour change, especially in the area of reproductive health, is much more than access to information and services; it is about recognising that all women, despite their economic status, know what they need and should feel empowered and in control of their lives.

Lydia Mulat, Director of Ethiopia Operations for Triggerise said: “Girls who used to be forced out of school because of unintended pregnancies, due to lack of information or access to health care, now have a better choice. She Makes Her Safe Choice allows them to address their needs, access health services, learn soft skills and earn and spend through membership systems, such as Tiko. This effects both health and wealth. We’re thrilled to impact so many lives by triggering positive behaviour for a better life.”

Different and daring approach

The annual number of unsafe abortions remains very high in Ethiopia and is decreasing only gradually. Not surprising, with a high unmet need for contraception (40%) and a high number of unintended pregnancies (38%). As the use of contraception is low, drawing attention to modern contraception will have a positive effect on preventing unintended pregnancies and reducing unsafe abortions. In 2014, 46% (290,000) of abortions performed in Ethiopia were unsafe.

Saskia Husken, Programme Manager at Rutgers said: ‘In a country with one of the highest rates of unsafe abortions in the world, we knew that a different and daring approach was needed to tackle the problem in Ethiopia. It’s exciting to see our partners here starting to create synergies and use each other’s unique contribution to address the challenges in accessing safe abortion.’

She Makes Her Safe Choice

The She Makes Her Safe Choice programme is run in cooperation with the non-profit social marketing organisation, DKT International, and began in 2018 in Kenya and Ethiopia and at the global level. In 2020 it will be scaled-up to francophone West Africa. Find out more about Safe Choice here.


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Annually Rutgers receives support from the Dutch Postcode Lottery and its participants