Neelam Saleem Punjani, Youth Champion, Pakistan

On #InternationalWomensDay, our #YouthChampion reflects on her work and the need to #PressforProgress in order to ensure that every woman, everywhere has access to #safe and #legal #abortions. 


Working with women on some of the most stigmatized topics like women’s right to safe abortion is not a challenge that many people would welcome. It is sometimes difficult, often frustrating and at times confrontational. But for me advocating for women’s right to safe abortion is simply the best job in the world!

I was motivated to work with women by my own experience of growing up in a patriarchal society where speaking about women’s right is always considered a taboo.

Young girls and women around the world face abortion stigma every day due to restrictive laws and policies. The young girls and women are humiliated for seeking abortion services regardless of the country laws on abortion.  This prevents them to look for timely help which results in 46% of unsafe abortion worldwide. Not only this, every year 47,000 women die due to unsafe abortion which increases the burden of maternal mortality.

I strongly believe that abortion should be legal and safe for every woman.

Based on the human rights to equality and dignity, women should never be forced to continue the unwanted pregnancy against their wishes. The consequences of stigma, silence, and shame around abortion end up in life-threatening consequences for the women. It is high time that all governments should acknowledge women’s reproductive rights to safe abortion and create a conducive environment for women to fulfill their rights.

As an abortion advocate, my motivation is always to give young girls and women the opportunity to access their sexual and reproductive health rights and providing them awareness, support, and opportunities which they may never have had before due to the taboo attached to such topics.

We need to start challenging the prevailing stereotypes about abortion for young girls and women in our societies.

I have noticed that people around me are extremely uncomfortable to even say the word “abortion”. Just the sound of it is shameful to them. However, after I have spoken up publicly at various forums about women’s rights to safe abortion, many people around me feel less awkward discussing the topic. I believe that the young generation does have the power and rights to speak up and be well-informed about decisions that determine their health and well-being, in order to protect themselves from harmful consequences.

In order to make women empowered, governmental organizations along with private sectors should prioritize women’s sexual and reproductive health through scaling up the existing programs. This will ensure the protection of fundamental human right which is a key to achieve sustainable development.

My message to young people is –if I can talk openly about abortion, so can you!

So let’s stand up, together, and speak out to ensure women’s right to safe and legal abortion!