We feel elated to welcome our third batch of Youth Champions from across Asia; at the Youth Advocacy Institute we strive to create a community of trained and sensitized youth champions who have an understanding of access to safe abortion as a gender and sexual and reproductive rights, as well as human rights issue. This year we are joined by 17 participants from 9 countries.
The first session ‘Understanding Gender and Patriarchy and its linkages with safe abortion issues’ facilitated by Anand Pawar along with Rola, Yu Yang and Sarah. It helped the participants to understand key conceptual issues such as the difference between sex and gender, the social construct of gender and the role of patriarchy in perpetuating the gender inequalities, differential access to and control over resources and decision making powers. During the session we had very stimulating discussions on the concept of power and how gender works as a system in perpetuating discrimination. The objective of the session was to help participants understand these concepts in the framework of reproductive and sexual rights.
We then saw a 2 minutes clip from the film “Water” which depicts the life of a child widow and forced us to think of the horrors of her life and the violation of so many of her rights.
The next session ‘Human Rights, Sexual and Reproductive Rights’ discussed in detail the definition of sexual and reproductive rights and linkages with other rights in upholding them. A brief presentation on ‘ICPD to MDG’s” by Yu Yang gave the participants an overview of the discourse about the connection between human rights and health, linking new concepts of health to the struggle for social justice and respect for human dignity. It further helped them understand the significance of the paradigm shift at the ICPD from demographic goals to individual reproductive rights. A few case studies were shared at the end to facilitate the discussion and build perspective.
After lunch we went into the session on Value Clarifications and Case Studies- the session was facilitated by Dr. Suchitra Dalvie and Anand Pawar along with Preet, Rola and Sarah Jane. Statements like ‘Women who have an abortion are ending a life’ were put on the screen and participants were asked to ‘Agree’ or ‘Disagree’ with the statements; they were not allowed to take a neutral stand and had to justify their stand. This session generated very thought provoking discussions around ethics, beliefs, rights and values. This exercise enabled the participants to understand the impact ‘social values’ can have on individual rights and also the nuances of policy interpretations being enabling or disabling. They were also introduced to the counter arguments made by anti-choice groups.
The day ended with screening of a 1 hour segment from a Romanian film “4 month, 3 Weeks and 2 Days”– a film about solidarity and sisterhood in the face of a complete ban on safe abortion during the late 1980s in Romania. The film is about two friends, one of whom seeks abortion and is forced to get through an illegal means. The film highlights the risk they take, the power dynamics, the transactional sex, the abortion law, the absence of the man responsible for the pregnancy, the solidarity, and the use of cinema itself as a tool to highlight and initiate discussions around such critical issues.
More updates from Day two to follow…