Abortion and society

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Majira Sexual & Reproductive Health Training Graduation at the Mansion House

In 2008, the Irish Family Planning Association (IFPA) was awarded €75,000 from the European Refugee Fund through the Office of the Minister for Integration to deliver the Majira project with input from AkiDwA, the national network of African and migrant women living in Ireland.

The aim of the project is to improve the quality of reproductive and sexual health for refugees and asylum seekers by providing sustainable medical care, psychological care, training and information.

In particular the course seeks to give asylum seekers and refugees the tools to discuss issues such as STIs, HIV/AIDS, sexual health, FGM, domestic violence, safe-sex negotiation and women’s health services.  The programme is entitled Majira, which means ‘family planning’ in Swahili, but it can also be translated as ‘seasons’

On 8th July, 29 women seeking asylum in Ireland graduated from a 10-week empowerment course focusing on sexual and reproductive health and rights in Dublin and Limerick.

The Dublin event took place in The Oak Room of the Mansion House and was attended by the Lord Mayor Cllr Emer Costello and Senator Fiona O’Malley. Deputy Jan O’Sullivan officiated at a similar event in Limerick.

It is hoped that course participants will pass on the knowledge gained in this course to their communities and will benefit from an improved understanding available health services, explained Lynn Harnedy, Majira Programme Officer with the IFPA.

“Female refugees and women seeking asylum face unique challenges to achieving sexual and reproductive health.  Barriers include lack of information about available services, negative attitudes from front-line health workers and communication difficulties. In addition, they can face issues such as strict gender roles within families, female genital mutilation and higher risk of domestic violence.

“Vulnerability to sexual violence particularly within reception centres makes them more at risk of STIs and crisis pregnancies.  Travel restrictions due to immigration status can result in illegal abortion.”

Representatives from the EU Commission, Women’s Aid, Pobal and the Crisis Pregnancy Agency also attended the graduation event.

Issues highlighted in the training sessions and the health checks were debated at a forum in Dublin last Friday. This debate will feed into the production of a handbook for health service providers on how to work sensitively with female asylum seekers and refugees in the area of sexual and reproductive health.

About IFPA:   IFPA has been to the fore in setting the agenda for sexual and reproductive rights in Ireland for the last 40 years. The IFPA offers a comprehensive range of services designed to promote sexual health and support reproductive choice. It works with people of all ages, genders, nationalities and sexual orientation and offers sexual and reproductive health services, pregnancy counselling, education and training on a not-for-profit basis.

About AkiDwA:  Akina Dada wa Africa Akina Dada wa Africa (AkiDwA; Swahili for sisterhood) is a minority ethnic-led national network of African and migrant women living in Ireland. The organisation is a recognised authoritative and representative body for migrant women, irrespective of their national/ethnic background, tradition, religious beliefs, socio-economic or legal status. AkiDwA’s advocacy approach is based on a gender perspective and the organisation promotes an equal society, free of racism, discrimination and stereotyping.