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Meet Telma*, a survivor of unsafe abortion
Photos by Yanick Folly
When university student Telma fell pregnant unintendedly, she underwent an unsafe abortion. She suffered severe complications that landed her in hospital. This is the story of a young woman using her own tragic experience to improve the sexual and reproductive health and rights of women and girls in Benin. “Many young girls are dying because they lack information and I would like my story to help decision-makers make good decisions to save people’s lives.”
“My name is Telma, I’m 24-years old and a university student. I come from a family of four children of which I am the youngest. I used an unsafe abortion method. This is my story.”
“Since secondary school, there has been a man that my parents, especially my father, wanted me to marry, because he always helped us and my father owed him a lot of money. At first, I wanted to do my parents’ will and I did as my parents wanted. But as time went by, I started to get tired of the situation with the man and I let my parents know. They didn’t like to hear that.”
“Later I met another man and fell in love with him. We had a secret relationship until I realised I was pregnant.”
“I couldn’t talk about it with my parents, because the man they considered my husband was not in the country and so they would understand that the pregnancy was not his.”
“The man I got pregnant with was willing to come and see my parents, but the atmosphere was tense. I couldn’t keep the pregnancy. Every day I thought about how my situation would get worse, the mockery of friends, the insults of other parents and the challenges I would face. I decided to seek help to get rid of the pregnancy.”
“The next day I found it difficult to get out of bed”
“I was very anxious and afraid of what was going to happen, as I had no idea how it would happen. I read some recipes on the internet and some friends gave me tips on how to terminate a pregnancy. Based on this, I mixed some tablets with hot drinks. At the time I didn’t feel much discomfort. But the next day I found it very difficult to get out of bed, because my stomach and head hurt like hell. A few hours later I started bleeding heavily. This bleeding lasted for two days without stopping. To justify my discomfort at the time, I told my parents that I was having a painful period.”
“On the evening of the third day, I woke up in a clinic with infusions. I was told that I had fainted and that I was close to dying. The doctors had to tell my mother the truth. Mum was deeply disappointed in me and took strong reprisals.”
“Since the unsafe abortion, I have been suffering from a lot of discomfort related to my menstruation cycle and I have had some infections.”
“My mum decided to speed up the process of my marriage to the other man, as she felt I might bring dishonour to the family. I am relieved that I did not die, as it was quite risky to take tablets that I did not know. If I had more information about safe abortion services, I would not have risked taking unknown tablets.”
Telma now works with She Makes Her Safe Choice partner ABPF as peer educator, by warning other girls about the dangers of unsafe abortion. “Many young girls are dying because of lack of information and I would like my story to help decision-makers make good decisions to preserve people’s lives.”
Our work on improving access to safe and legal abortions in Benin is part of She Makes Her Safe Choice, our global programme on preventing unintended pregnancies and ending unsafe abortions.
*Not her real name
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