nigeria-women-protest-ventures-africa-e1447219012476In January of this year, some five million women took to the streets in 673 marches across the world.  These women marched against Trump and all he represents: demagoguery, xenophobia, misogyny, racism, sexism and homophobia. March 8 was International Women’s Day. This year, it is also an international day of action in more than 30 countries.

On February 11, anti-abortion groups targeted 200 clinics across the US in protests they hoped would build support for ending all federal funding for Planned Parenthood. But when they showed up Saturday morning, they were met with counter protests that mostly outnumbered them at 150 of the 200 clinics.

These demonstrations should give confidence to women across the world. We all need to join the international movement against discrimination against women and for all women to be able to control their own bodies.  All women should be able to enjoy intimate relationships, but also to be able to choose if or when they want to become pregnant.

While population growth is not a major reason for the challenges the poor face in Nigeria, the fact that the population has increased by 10 fold since independence does not make things any easier.  It means there are many more youths chasing the few jobs.  In the rural areas there is less land to go around and so conflicts, for example, between Fulani herders and farmers are made worse.

When a women and a man have an intimate relationship it is the woman that may get pregnant and bear the consequences.  As a result, it should be a women’s right to choose whether or not to have a child.  All women should have access to free and effective birth control.

Only a minority of sexually active teenagers are using effective modern forms of contraception.  As a result, for example, half of the school dropouts each year are girls of 12 to 14 years who have to leave school because they become pregnant.  Very few schools allow pregnant girls or young mothers to complete their education.

Under Nigerian Law, performing an abortion is still a criminal offence, unless the pregnancy threatens the woman’s life and penalties for the offence are severe.  As a result, unsafe abortions are a serious health problem.  However, there are an estimated 610,000 abortions in Nigeria each year and most women have had at least one by the time they are 45 years old. There has been an increased use of abortion by adolescent women with unplanned pregnancies who want to continue at school.  Only around two thirds of women go to a doctor for an abortion.

We need to campaign against such legal restrictions.  Effective contraceptives should be freely available to prevent unwanted pregnancies, but if necessary abortion should also be freely available at all public hospitals and clinics.  All pregnancies should be based on a woman’s right to choose when and whether to have a child or not.  Pregnant young women should be supported so that they are able to continue their education as long as possible.

by Tina Ndi