In West Africa, the number of deaths due to unsafe abortion is 540 per 100,000 unsafe abortions. In Benin, legal restrictions and prevalent stigma create barriers to access for safe abortion.
Since 2014, the IPPF Member Association in Benin, Association Béninoise pour la Promotion de la Famille (ABPF) has implemented a project aimed at reducing abortion stigma amongst young people. An adapted “Stigmatizing attitudes, beliefs and actions scale” (SABAS - Shellenberg, 2014) implemented to measure community attitudes to abortion, revealed that 84% of respondents have a negative perception of abortion and they do not favour access to safe abortion services. Young people often use unsafe methods of abortion because of stigma they face in the community. The double stigma of being sexually active and seeking abortion care experienced by young people disempowers and leaves them without accurate information and support, increasing the risk of unsafe abortion.
Through the project, ABPF has empowered young people to lead initiatives to reduce abortion stigma. ‘Youth Champions’ have been trained on abortion rights and they work with their peers, providing information about sexual health and abortion, and refer young people to clinics for safe abortion services. Some specific strategies that the youth champions have implemented include conducting outreach activities in schools, with students and teachers as well as specific sessions for young people that are out of school. The Youth Champions have conducted advocacy with community leaders to influence policies in support of young people’s access to safe abortion services. The Youth Champions are active on social media, answering questions from other young people and working to destigmatize abortion. Since October 2016, the number of abortion and abortion related services provided to young people is 4561, in addition the Youth Champions have referred 153 young people themselves to ABPF services