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“My goal is to demystify abortion”

Meet Amour, a youth champion of She Makes Her Safe Choice in Benin
Photos by Yanick Folly

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Tags: Advocacy, Benin, Safe abortion, She makes her safe choice, Youth participation

Growing up in rural Benin, sexuality was a taboo in Amour’s community. His awareness on the sexual and reproductive health and rights of young people was also not self-evident. His views changed 180 degrees, however, when he joined the Youth Action Movement. Now he’s its proud president: “My goal is to demystify abortion, to talk about it openly, to take it out of the taboo and to mobilise others to support the cause of saving lives.”

My name is Amour. I am a young man of 24-years old and President of the Youth Action Movement, which is part of the Beninese Association for the Promotion of the Family. I am also a youth champion of the She Makes Her Safe Choice programme.

“I was born and raised in the southeast region of Benin. In my remote community, I lived in a rural area where all I had to do was study or work in the field. We never had the opportunity to talk about sexuality. My parents didn’t have time for that and any young person who dared to talk about sexuality would be punished.”

“In this environment, where sexuality has remained a taboo for a long time, abortion is perceived as an inhuman act. All religions treat it as a sin, a crime, and everyone is afraid to talk about abortion at the risk of being judged. Those who resorted to abortion services, or those who facilitated it, would not only be cursed, frowned upon and discriminated against. They became the object of prayer and purification sessions.”

“However,” says Amour, “girls did have clandestine abortions without their parents or religious leaders knowing about it. Some parents would accompany their daughters to perform clandestine abortions when faced with an unintended pregnancy or if they were pregnant by a man who is not approved by the family, to avoid embarrassment. Some women also resorted to clandestine abortion when they were not ready to have another child for fear of being laughed at.”

“Only now, I know the degree of risk that these girls and women were taking by having clandestine abortions practiced by people with no expertise in the matter. Many girls have died this way!”

“In this environment there was no room for different opinions,” reflects Amour. “So I had the same opinions and perceptions about abortion as everyone else. I insulted anyone who I suspected of having an abortion. I was anti-choice, and I stigmatised abortion a lot.”

Things changed drastically for Amour when he moved to the city and joined the Youth Action Movement. “I was passionate about education and did not miss any opportunity to acquire new knowledge that I used to sensitise my peers in my village. The Youth Action Movement allowed me to understand all aspects of sexual and reproductive health and rights. It was at this point that I attended trainings on abortion issues, which helped me to clarify my values by separating my opinions from the facts. It is then that I started integrating the theme of abortion in my awareness messages in my village.”

“I must admit that it was complicated to talk about abortion in this highly religious and cultural environment. For my parents and family, I had gone against the morals. However, I managed to be persistent in my actions to save the lives of others. My only goal was to demystify abortion, to talk about it openly, to take it out of the taboo, to give real information about abortion and mobilise others to support the cause of saving lives.”

For me abortion is a right, a primary health care

“This project was very important because it allowed me to acquire a lot of knowledge that I didn’t have before and to strengthen my ability to talk about abortion. I learned the language related to abortion, the appropriate terminology and acquired the necessary tools for the job. As a youth champion on the project, I have trained many young peer educators on the topic and helped to sensitise hundreds of adolescents and youth in schools, out-of-school, universities and those living in rural areas. The project has allowed me to network with other activists and to carry out activities together.”

“With the She Makes Her Safe Choice programme, I had working sessions with parliamentarians, representatives of various religions and community leaders to discuss issues related to the fight against unsafe abortion by giving the right information to adolescents and young people. I also conducted online awareness activities to reach my peers on social networks.”

The programme has achieved a lot at the national level in Benin. “We strongly contributed to the vote in favour of the new law n°2021-12. This law reinforces access to safe abortion and offers broader opportunities to women and girls to have access to it. For me, abortion is a right, abortion is a primary health care. We must work to make it safe so that no woman or girl dies trying to terminate an unintended pregnancy.”

Our work on improving access to safe and legal abortion in Benin is part of She Makes Her Safe Choice, our global programme on preventing unintended pregnancies and ending unsafe abortions.

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