By Smriti Thapa
Focus on the journey, not the destination. Joy is found not in finishing an activity but in doing it: Greg Anderson
I still remember the day that changed the course of my life. On the very first day of our 2nd Youth Advocacy Institute held in Mumbai, Dr.Shilpa and Dr.Suchitra, our facilitators held a short session on Values Clarification. During the session, we were given some statements and asked whether to agree or disagree. It was really hard then, for me to decide which side to take. In the YAI, I was being trained to be an advocate of a sensitive issue like safe abortion and they wanted to deepen our understanding of the issues we were advocating for. So, it was very necessary to crosscheck our own values and unravel our own hidden misconceptions. Before YAI, I had not had an explicit understanding of the term Pro choice or Anti-choice but as YAI continued it changed my perspective. I came to realize that being a human, being a woman and being me could all be summed up in the idea of being prochoice.
Abortion was the term introduced to me through medical education in 2008 during my 3rd year as an undergraduate. During my high schools years, I knew the vague meaning of abortion through movies and television serials but I didn’t dare ask my friends, teachers or parents, what it actually was, when we were barely provided with sex education. So, yes it was in my 3rd year that its medical meaning (termination of the pregnancy by the removal or expulsion from the uterus of a fetus or embryo before viability) and the context became apparent to me. Knowledge of abortion was just provided in the medical context and the procedures were explained explicitly but it was only in the 2nd youth advocacy institute that I came to know how it was deeply related to feminism and women’s reproductive rights and her autonomy.
Here is what I learned about being Prochoice: Pro-choice is the position which advocates for the recognition of a woman’s right to choose whether or not to have an abortion, and her individual right to choose the timing, number and spacing of her pregnancies. But as women in a patriarchal world, we have limited options and our choices are often strangled by some personal, social, economic reasons and also by strong societal roles or gender roles forced upon us as being born as women.
After I completed YAI2013, as Youth Champion I decided to become a change agent. Legalization of abortion was one the best thing that has happened in my country for the emancipation of Nepalese Women. Although abortion is legal in my country, I wonder how many citizens are really aware about the deeper feminist implications of abortion. As a Youth champion, I have decided to motivate people to recognize abortion as not just a legalized medical procedure but also as women’s right to autonomy. With the support from my mentors from ASAP and MIDOSN(Midwifery Society of Nepal, I conducted various advocacy programs marking September 28, International day of Action for access to Safe and Legal abortion, International women’s day (10th march). In these programs participants were motivated to be prochoice with a hope that they will be able to inspire others so that the cycle of inspiration goes on.
Social media is said to be the boon of 21st century. Before YAI, I used social media for fun and personal reasons but after the YAI, I learned to use it as an effective advocacy tool. I am now connected to a large number of people and organizations working for the same cause through multiple media platform like Facebook and Twitter. Initially, not everyone appreciated what I was advocating for. Now I have also formed an informal group of young women from various educational backgrounds and named it as “YOUNG WOMEN FOR CHANGE”. We speak for gender equality and women’s rights. I reckon that we need to discuss feminism when people are very young so that as grown up women they can recognize their own rights including the most powerful right to autonomy.
My journey of being prochoice doesn’t end here. In fact, it’s a sweet beginning towards a change that I expect to bring in the society and surroundings where I live in. My ultimate dream is to live in the world where women are granted autonomy and are empowered in doing so. So, I am proud of being Prochoice and will continue to inspire other men and women to be the same. My deepest gratitude is always there in the core of my heart to the entire ASAP team for implanting a seed of hope, a hope to be a change agent and be the part of the change process that the world is marching towards.