Ngwale joined the awareness match through Nchalo Trading Centre
By Victor Singano Jnr.
For Members of Parliament to be stimulated and persuaded to push for the legislation of the Termination of Pregnancy Bill, civil society organisations (CSOs) and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) in the country need to intensify awareness campaigns amongst the public.
Chairperson for Parliamentary Health Committee, Dr. Mathews Ngwale says once the CSOs and NGOs receive good support from the people, they can push their legislators to seriously consider tabling the safe abortion Bill.
Dr. Ngwale made the call during the annual commemoration of the International Safe Abortion Day, which was held in Nchalo, Chikwawa last Wednesday, lamenting that the motion for the Bill motion been facing challenges in as far as support from the legislators is concerned because some members are blank on the importance of the Termination of Pregnancy.
He said there was a need for people to also understand the dangers of unsafe abortion and how it is affecting lives of girls and women in the country, taking cognizance that the death rate for girls and women is increasing every year.
He disclosed that Malawi is rated as the first country which is losing girls and women who die due to issues of unsafe abortion. He believes that such deaths can easily be avoided once the Termination of Pregnancy Bill is made into law.
“Malawi is at a risk of losing many lives of women and girls if this Bill will not pass in Parliament because majority of the lawmakers are shunning the Bill due lack of knowledge of the advantages of this Bill.
“But frankly speaking, I don’t blame the legislators much but the CSOs and NGOs because I believe they haven’t done enough awareness at local or council level.
“Media coverage publicity has been low — so it is becoming difficult for the people to have knowledge on abortion bill because once they understand, it they will push their leaders such as chiefs and Members of Parliament to make sure they support this Bill in Parliament.
“As it is now, the number of deaths involving women and girls is increasing each and everyday and Chikwawa District has the highest number because a total of 30 women and girls are losing lives per month for attempting to do self abortion — which is very sad,” Ngwale said.
In her remarks, Emma Kaliya — director of Malawi Human Rights Resource Centre (MHRRC), who is also chairperson of Coalition for the Prevention of Unsafe Abortion (COPUA) — disclosed that the abortion bill is facing different pressure from communities, especially from religious leaders and other groups who need to be sensinsitised of its benefits.
Kaliya said they are arranging proper communication strategy in conjunction with NGOs, whose main target is to make sure every Malawian understands the Bill and take part in pushing for its legislation so that lives of women and girls should be saved.
“We’ll develop a proper strategy and one of it is through empowering youth champions in the districts to make sure we help people to fully understand the Bill in order to impress on their Parliamentarians of its goodness,” Kaliya said.
Senior Chief Chapananga of Chikwawa said if passed, the Termination of Pregnancy law shall be the only solution to address the current rate of deaths of women and girls, had opted to use shortcuts once they are faced with unplanned pregnancies.
He pleaded with the legislators to take the Bill seriously by considering how it is affecting innocent girls and women through unsafe abortions.
The commemoration of the International Safe Abortion Day was organised by COPUA with support from IPAS Malawi in partnership with other organizations such as Young Voices Organization, Center for Solutions Journalism, just to mention a few.
The commemoration started from Nchalo Trading Centre to the main venue at the community ground where it was spiced up by music, drama and poetry.
The International Safe Abortion Day, which was initiated in 1990 but Malawi joined in 2020, was first celebrated as a day of action for decriminalisation of abortion in Latin America and the Caribbean in 1990 by the Campaña before Women’s Global Network for Reproductive Rights declared September 28 as an igniter all day in 2011.
The date was chosen to commemorate the passing of the Law of Free Birth passed by the Brazilian parliament in September 28, 1871 which was a key legal reform intended to provide freedom for the children of enslaved people in Brazil at the time.
The day’s name was changed to International Safe Abortion Day in 2015 on which 83 activities were organised in 47 countries by national, regional and international NGOs and activists. 2016 was the biggest International Safe Abortion Day ever celebrated.
In 2018, September 28 marked a mobilisation in Argentina against the cuts made to the Ministry of Health by the conservative government. These cuts had substantial impacts on women’s welfare and access to abortions in the country.
In 2019, Malta held its first protest in favour of the legalisation of abortion — held on September 28 to commemorate International Safe Abortion Day.