Commemorating #IWD2017 we are celebrating work of our young women champions in promoting women’s access to safe abortion in their region. This blog series is an attempt to acclaim their power as #ASAPChangemakers !!
Youth Champion Prabani Perera: I am a feminist who respects choices and believes in reproductive justice. I completed my Bachelors in Social Work at National Institute of Social Development (School of Social Work in Sri Lanka). I am a Youth Champion of Asia Safe Abortion Partnership (ASAP) and work as Director of Advocacy and Networking at Youth Advocacy Network Sri Lanka (YANSL). I am also a counselor of Ask Us hotline which is the first ever hotline in Sri Lanka which provides information on post abortion care, contraceptives and sexuality. I have been part of many online campaigns and trainings conducted by ASAP and YANSL on women’s reproductive health and rights. I was also part of a research on mapping abortion friendly organizations and institutes within Colombo with another youth champion from Sri Lanka.
Through YANSL and ASK Us we have done various online campaigns targeting international days like photo campaigns, quizzes etc focusing the importance of women’s reproductive health and rights. These campaigns were eye openers for my friends, colleagues and family members, it is a pleasure to see that some sort of discussion is generated within the society through our campaigns and the feedbacks and the comments that I got was indeed positive and encouraging
I was lucky and privileged enough to be part of ASAP where I got experience and exposure from many other young advocates and feminists, about their work in different contexts. I gained the advocacy skills needed to advocate for safe abortion rights within the country and with relevant stakeholders. It also gave me a chance to talk on different platforms on the importance of respecting women’s reproductive rights. As a hotline counselor I experienced the feelings of women and young girls their vulnerabilities and weaknesses in terms of making decisions, accessing information and services etc. It provided me with motivation to fight for their rights.
This world would be more independent and free when every person’s is privileged to make decisions on behalf of themselves without any discrimination based on their gender, race, age, religion, sexuality, disability etc. Women need to take charge and to be respected for the choices they make. It is sad that women and girls are often unaware of their sexual and reproductive rights. To make this world a place where women could breathe freely its important that women have control over their bodies. Until that we all have to empower each other, be with each other in difficult times, spread love for each other and fight till we achieve what we believe is the true freedom of all women and girls.
Youth Champion Pushpa Joshi Pradhan: “ Life is not merely to survive, but rather to live; And the true significance of life is acknowledged when you distinguish yourself as a change maker and put your effort to roll out a few improvements among the lives around you.”
The sense of change maker in myself evoked when I first worked as a facilitator for the young women factory workers to sensitize them about their Reproductive health and rights amid my high school days. The vivid experience of my participation in the first Youth Advocacy Institute (YAI) in 2015 and the Youth Advocacy Refresher (YAR) in 2016 further helped me to nurture the dream that I had seen; The dream of a just society where people living their life enjoying every right to the fullest as mentioned in the UDHR, women enjoying their reproductive rights as specified in ICPD, CEDAW and Beijing rule. The involvement in the YCANN with wonderful team members has also provided me the platform to catalyze the advocacy and the activism that is necessary to meet the dream that I have aspired to achieve. The identification as ‘Youth champion’ carries a sense of pride as well as colossal obligations towards the better future of the women, advancing their sexual and reproductive health rights.
I strongly believe that conversations on important issues like choice, abortion, bodily autonomy, sex, sexuality, sexual and reproductive health and rights, etc., is very essential in order to debunk the myths related to it and to smash the stigmas around it.
In a country where child marriage and unsafe abortion still exists despite progressive laws and where the sexual and reproductive health of women is only limited up to maternal and child health care, it is extremely difficult to talk about bodily autonomy and bring about change in the thoughts and harmful belief system of the general population. But because of the support from the hardworking and like-minded activists and enthusiastic young people, I am extremely optimistic about the future of the women in Nepal and in global society. I have been trying my best to provide the meaningful contribution to amplify the ongoing movement. Being a young woman who has been challenging the patriarchy with other young activists, I foresee a society where women of the upcoming generation will not have to advocate for the same issues that the women from our senior generations had to deal with.
Bodily autonomy is one of the issues I firmly advocate for. It’s a shame that we are still battling for the women’s control over their body. Our body is the only thing which we call it our own; exclusively ours. The true and successful leadership can only flourish when you become the only decision maker over your body. Women and their bodies are controlled by various pillars of patriarchy, including religion, society, family, media and so on, by teaching the girls how to sit, how to dress, how to walk, what to do and what not to do and many more.
No matter how much we shout about global goals and achieving peaceful society, the goals will never be achieved until and unless the women are the masters of their own body.
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