Radio programs, like this one being listened to in Tanzania, increase awareness and generate discussion.
Community radio in South Africa opens ears to reproductive health rights
Safe, legal termination of pregnancy has been available in South Africa since 1997. So why are so many women still dying from unsafe abortion?
From 2005 to 2007, PATH conducted research to identify the barriers women in South Africa faced in getting information and services to help them prevent and manage unwanted pregnancies. Using what we learned, PATH, in partnership with Kagiso Television and Communication, developed a 12-episode radio series to increase awareness and generate discussion about family planning, safe abortion services, women’s reproductive rights, and preventing sexually transmitted infections, including HIV. The programs were broadcast on two community radio stations over the course of several months. In total, they were heard by an estimated half million people.
Each show began with the introduction of a theme and then featured a real-life story or case study, an information section, and finally an interactive discussion with a guest expert. Listeners were encouraged to call in to ask questions or offer their own thoughts.
Know your rights
Listeners learned about several crucial topics, including how to prevent unwanted pregnancies, the dangers that women face in seeking unsafe abortions from unskilled providers, the many difficult circumstances that might lead a woman to choose to terminate a pregnancy, and where and how safe and legal termination of pregnancy services can be found in their communities.
Many listeners reported that the programs helped them better understand why a woman might choose to terminate a pregnancy. “This law has helped the women who were dying through back-street abortions,” said one listener, echoing comments from both men and women who previously had been opposed to the legalization of abortion. “It was risky. Now through the legalization of abortion, women can get proper medical assistance.”
For others, the radio program was an opportunity to learn more about their rights under the Choice Termination of Pregnancy Act in South Africa, helping them to gain a deeper understanding of what the law means for them. Finally, listeners recalled important radio discussions that covered topics such as family planning and the dangers of second trimester abortion. More importantly, a number of listeners mentioned having conversations related to these important topics with friends, family members, and neighbors after the program had been broadcast. One woman’s comments encapsulate the importance of ensuring that everyone in South Africa understands their reproductive rights:
“I have a pregnant friend who wants to have an abortion…She wanted to do it in the back-street abortion [clinic]. I told her about her rights. I warned her about the dangers. I made her change her mind. She went to the hospital.”
Photo: Bob Msangi, courtesy of Photoshare.