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Articles by Category for ‘Reproductive Health’

Burundian Community Organizer Uses US Nonprofit’s Drama as a New Tool

Tuesday, October 21st, 2014

MUREMERA, BURUNDI–Jeanne d’Arc Butoyi’s phone rang on June 24, 2014. When she answered, she didn’t know she’d be talking about something that had so profoundly helped her in her life. That was the first time she talked with someone from Population Media Center.

Jean Sacha Barikumutima, who works on promotions in Population Media Center’s Burundi office, dialed her number that day as part of a random sample telephone survey he conducts each month to assess listenership and reaction to a radio drama produced by Population Media Center (PMC), a US nonprofit dedicated to improving the health and well-being of people around the world through the use of entertainment-education.

“When I heard her story,” says Jean Sacha,” I was so moved. Here was a woman trying to bring information and change to her community, working so hard, and our drama was helping her to make progress.”

Just a short time later, on August 28, 2014, members of the PMC-Burundi team traveled to Jeanne’s village to hear more of her story and how the PMC drama, Agashi (“Hey! Look Again!”), was impacting her.

Jeanne is Burundian and, yes, her name translates to Joan of Arc. She lives in Muremera, in the Ndava region of Cibitoke Province. She’s in her mid-30s and works as a community organizer addressing many sexual and reproductive health issues, including condom usage, family planning, and visiting health clinics.

During the interview, Jeanne described how one character in the drama, Muhorakeye, has taught men and women to go to a clinic for prenatal care instead of relying on folklore or witchcraft and how this same character’s adamant attitude that pregnant women in Burundi should eat liver, because it’s a food that’s available and packed with nutrients, has many women rethinking their refusal to eat it.

“I invite women to listen to Agashi with me, and we all listen to the show very closely. I have seven children. I invite women who don’t yet have seven children and tell them, ‘Come, listen to these messages on Agashi. Listen to the misfortune Tengenge has to go through – giving birth to so many children and not being able to feed them.’ When I used her case as an example, people really began to understand the problem.”

But it’s not just women that Jeanne finds have been impacted by the drama. She’s also using the drama to reach out to adolescents, explaining the importance of condoms, the prevalence of HIV/AIDS, and the risks of teenage pregnancy.

“What I like about the series is that Agashi has plenty of advice. There are plenty of lessons. There’s a community organizer on Agashi, and she teaches us a lot. She helps us with our community education and advocacy work. She teaches people even more about what I already teach, and people that didn’t used to listen to me are now convinced that they should.”

“I am one of those girls that had their first pregnancy too young,” says Jeanne. “I had her at 16 or probably younger. I was still living at my parents’ house.” Jeanne explains that she was lucky, the father stayed and helped her raise their daughter and they’re now married. But Jeanne works hard to help other girls stay in school and avoid pregnancy or disease.

Jeanne held discussion groups about Agashi with youth, and things weren’t easy or smooth. She explains that the youth began with comments like “You mothers and your questions mess with us! Things are different now than they were when you grew up!” But this didn’t dissuade Jeanne from using Agashi characters and actions to open up conversations about sex and condoms. Little by little, she says, some of them opened up.

“Later on, some of them came by to ask me for condoms because I have them. And some of them even told me what they did. Most of them have become friends of mine, and I give them advice.”

Jeanne explains that many youth now come to these discussion groups to share, one of whom is an orphan from Kayanza who lives with a foster mother in the village. When she arrived, many people talked about her, saying that “she had been with lots of boys.” Jeanne went to see her, and although the relationship began one-sided, Jeanne continued to visit her and Jeanne says that she realized she was a friend.

“She’s open to me now. I advised her to go get tested. She went to do it and, thank God, she is HIV negative. She came back to tell me that ‘It’s hard to abstain.’ I then advised her to use a condom. Today, she sensitizes the other girls, who still make fun of her condom use. I don’t understand anyone who doesn’t realize the importance of condoms. More and more girls, age 14 and older, are following my advice. And often they come back to tell me thank you.”

This cascading system of information, where more and more people are informed and educated about health issues is exactly PMC’s hope. The dramas are designed to model behavior, not tell people what to do, so that the audience can discuss the different characters and actions and make decisions that are right for them.

“Jeanne’s story was so powerful,” says Jean Sacha. “She was already doing incredible work, and it’s wonderful to hear that Agashi has given her another tool to be even more effective. We need people in the communities to carry these messages if we’re going to see real change.”

“What’s at stake in the series reflects the reality of the country. It really exists,” says Jeanne. “There’s a community organizer on Agashi, and she teaches us a lot. She helps us with our community education and advocacy work. She teaches people even more about what I already teach, and people that didn’t used to listen to me are now convinced that they should.”



Population Media Center is a nonprofit, international nongovernmental organization, which strives to improve the health and well-being of people around the world through the use of entertainment-education strategies, like serialized dramas on radio and television, in which characters evolve into role models for the audience for positive behavior change. Founded in 1998, PMC has over 15 years of field experience using the Sabido methodology of behavior change communications, impacting more than 50 countries around the world. www.populationmedia.org

No Undue Burden? What Texas’ HB 2 Means for Maria

Tuesday, October 7th, 2014

No Undue Burden? What Texas’ HB 2 Means for Maria 

See: http://rhrealitycheck.org/article/2014/10/03/undue-burden-texas-hb-2-means-maria/
The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans has ruled that the State of Texas can now enforce HB 2, the omnibus anti-choice law that mandates that legal abortion facilities meet the standards of ambulatory surgical centers and that doctors who provide abortions have admitting privileges at local hospitals. HB 2was opposed as medically unnecessary-and even dangerous-by state- and national-level major medical associations. Anti-choice lawmakers claimed, against all evidence to the contrary, that HB 2 would increase the “health and safety” of Texans who seek legal abortion care.

The law also bans abortion after 20 weeks, and severely limits the provision of medication abortion.

In light of this ruling, here are the burdens women like Maria will face.

Maria* is a representative 26-year-old woman living in Harlingen, Texas, who finds herself pregnant. She is unable to have another child right now.

Maria works full time-more often, up to 60 hours a week-for minimum wage at a laundromat in Harlingen about 30 miles from Matamoros, Mexico. Before anti-choice lawmakers passed HB 2, she could have accessed legal abortion care near her home in Harlingen, or traveled 40 minutes away to McAllen for similarly safe, legal abortion care.

See: http://rhrealitycheck.org/article/2014/10/03/undue-burden-texas-hb-2-means-maria/

Teenage Girls Given Choice of Free Contraceptives Get Far Fewer Abortions

Tuesday, October 7th, 2014

Teenage Girls Given Choice of Free Contraceptives Get Far Fewer Abortions 

See: http://time.com/3453184/free-contraceptives-cut-teen-abortion-rates/
Girls allowed to choose between free contraceptive methods had 76% fewer abortions than their peers in the general population – and most chose IUDs

Three in 10 teenage girls in the U.S become pregnant each year-a rate far higher than in other industrialized countries. But when girls are counseled about the most effective contraceptives and given their pick of birth control at no cost, their rates of pregnancy drop by 78% and they get 76% fewer abortions than the general population of sexually active teens.

That’s what a new study published in the New England Journal of Medicine suggests, in which researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis attempted to see what would happen when they tore down the three main barriers to teenage birth control-ignorance of options, limited access and prohibitive cost.


They studied a group of 1,404 teenage girls enrolled in the Contraceptive CHOICE project, a study of adolescents and women at high risk for unintended pregnancy. 62% of the girls were black and 99% were sexually active. Black teens have even higher rates of pregnancy than the rest of the population: 4 in 10 become pregnant, compared with 2 in 10 white teens.

See: http://time.com/3453184/free-contraceptives-cut-teen-abortion-rates/

A Mother in Jail for Helping Her Daughter Have an Abortion

Tuesday, October 7th, 2014

A Mother in Jail for Helping Her Daughter Have an Abortion

See: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/09/22/magazine/a-mother-in-jail-for-helping-her-daughter-have-an-abortion.html?_r=2
On Sept. 12th, Jennifer Whalen, a 39-year-old mother of three in the rural town of Washingtonville, Pa., went to jail to begin serving a 9-to-18-month sentence. Whalen’s crime was, in effect, ordering pills online that her older daughter took in the first several weeks of an unplanned pregnancy, when she was 16, to induce a miscarriage. The medication was a combination of mifepristone (formerly called RU-486) and misoprostol. The drugs have been available from a doctor with a prescription in the United States since 2000 and are used around the world to induce miscarriage.

Recent research increasingly suggests that early in a pregnancy, women can safely use mifepristone and misoprostol to miscarry at home. (Much more about this here, in a story I wrote in August). But if the medical risk of this kind of do-it-yourself abortion is relatively small, the legal risk still looms large.

On the night before Whalen went to jail, I drove to Pennsylvania to meet her. We sat at a conference table in the office of her lawyer, who was present for the 90-minute conversation. For most of the time we spent together, she sat hunched forward, arms wrapped around herself. She was dreading the prospect of leaving her 11-year-old daughter and her husband at home, she said, as well as her older daughter, now 19, who still lives with the family. (The oldest child, a 20-year-old son, lives nearby.) “I’m scared,” Whalen said of serving her sentence. “And I’m hurt because I can’t be with my family.”

See: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/09/22/magazine/a-mother-in-jail-for-helping-her-daughter-have-an-abortion.html?_r=2

In Texas & Around The World: Women’s Rights Matter for The Environment

Friday, September 26th, 2014

Why Women’s Rights Matter for The Environment

See: http://www.tribtalk.org/2014/09/16/why-womens-rights-matter-for-the-environment/

Texas women have suffered major setbacks to their reproductive health and rights this year.


At the federal level, the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision has made it more difficult for women to access their contraceptive method of choice. At the state level, the Legislature and Gov. Rick Perry have enacted new restrictions on clinics providing basic women’s health care and family planning services.

Of course, these decisions hurt Texas women and their families – but they also increase the risk of social, economic and environmental harm in our great state.

When women and their medical providers are prevented from making personal health care decisions, the negative consequences are far-reaching. A woman’s inability to control the number, timing and spacing of her children impacts her health, education and career. Moreover, the cumulative impact of women having more children than they desire strains public health systems and natural resources such as water, energy and healthy food.

Continue Reading »

High Listenership and Good Stories Combine for Large-Scale Behavior Change in Sierra Leone

Thursday, September 25th, 2014

FREETOWN, SIERRA LEONE– Imagine that for 53 cents, you could reach someone in Sierra Leone with entertaining stories that educate about family planning and using bednets to prevent malaria. A United States nonprofit discovered this month that they didn’t have to imagine – the impact was real.

Population Media Center (PMC), a nonprofit, international organization that strives to improve the health and well-being of people around the world with entertainment-education strategies, recently completed an impact evaluation of one of its programs in Sierra Leone. Saliwansai (“Puppet on a String”) was a 208-episode drama that aired on nine radio stations throughout Sierra Leone from April 2012 through April 2014.

“We’re excited by the results from the research survey, which was conducted with a nationally representative sample size of 1,098 respondents,” says Kriss Barker, PMC’s Vice President of International Programs. “The results clearly demonstrate the impact of the radio drama. It was entertaining, and the people of Sierra Leone tuned in.”

The results indicate that Saliwansai reached a total estimated audience of three million people between the ages of 15 and 59 years old. The results also estimate that the cost per behavior change for the listeners who, as a result of listening to the program, began discussing family planning with family, friends, or neighbors was $2.54 US and listeners who began using bednets to prevent malaria was $1.62 US.

“The cost per behavior change is important and demonstrates the power of our approach,” says Barker. “Behavior is a hard thing to change and to do it for these costs is remarkable.”

PMC uses a unique form of entertainment-education: long-running serial dramas on radio and TV. These dramas are based on real-life, mirroring every day challenges and solutions and using country data to determine which social and health issues will be addressed in each drama.

The results of Saliwansai on individual metrics demonstrate varying levels of success, such as listeners being:

  • 3.1 times more likely than non-listeners to say that you can decrease your chance of getting AIDS by using a condom every time you have sex
  • 4.1 times more likely than non-listeners to say it’s okay for information about condoms to be discussed on the radio
  • 2.9 times more likely than non-listeners to say they know where they could get a condom if they wanted one
  • 3.7 times more likely than non-listeners to say that a healthy-looking person can have HIV
  • 2.4 times more likely than non-listeners to say they would buy fresh vegetables from someone who has HIV
  • 2.3 times more likely than non-listeners to say that becoming pregnant every year can impact the health of the mother
  • 1.6 times more likely than non-listeners to say they know of an organization or people that advocate against domestic violence

“Results like these are promising,” says Scott Connolly, PMC’s Director of Research. “Sierra Leone  ranks as one of the lowest in the world on some of the United Nations Human Development Index health indicators. We’re pleased to address some of these issues with Saliwansai as part of the ongoing effort to improve life in Sierra Leone.”



Population Media Center is a nonprofit, international nongovernmental organization, which strives to improve the health and well-being of people around the world through the use of entertainment-education strategies, like serialized dramas on radio and television, in which characters evolve into role models for the audience for positive behavior change. Founded in 1998, PMC has over 15 years of field experience using the Sabido methodology of behavior change communications, impacting more than 50 countries around the world. www.populationmedia.org

New Study Finds that 40% of Pregnancies Worldwide are Unintended

Monday, September 22nd, 2014


Findings Highlight Need for Increased Investment in Contraceptive Services
See: http://www.guttmacher.org/media/nr/2014/09/17/sfp-sedgh-up.html
Of the 213 million pregnancies that occurred worldwide in 2012, 40%-about 85 million-were unintended, about the same proportion as in 2008, when 42% of all pregnancies globally were unintended. The new study, “Intended and Unintended Pregnancies Worldwide in 2012 and Recent Trends,” by Gilda Sedgh et al. of the Guttmacher Institute, found that the proportion of pregnancies that are unintended varied considerably by region. The highest proportions were in Latin America and the Caribbean (56%) and North America (51%), and the lowest were in Africa (35%), Oceania (37%) and Asia (38%); Europe’s proportion was the closest to the global average (45%).

In addition to documenting the proportions of pregnancies that are unintended across regions, the study examined recent trends in unintended pregnancy rates per 1,000 women of reproductive age. The researchers found that the average annual decline in the global unintended pregnancy rate between 2008 and 2012 was very small, compared with the average annual decline between 1995 and 2008. In 2012, there were 53 unintended pregnancies per 1,000 women aged 15-44, compared with 57 in 2008.

Overall, between 2008 and 2012, the unintended pregnancy rate remained steady in developed regions-44, on average-but it remained higher than average in North America (51). In less developed regions, it declined from 59 to 54; most of this decline resulted from declines in the Latin American and Caribbean region (76 to 68) and in Africa (86 to 80). There was less of a decline in Asia, where the rate (46) was more comparable to that in Europe (43) and in Oceania (43).


See: http://www.guttmacher.org/media/nr/2014/09/17/sfp-sedgh-up.html

Stoddard: Bill Ryerson, Global Vermonter

Monday, September 15th, 2014

Stoddard: Bill Ryerson, Global Vermonter 

See: http://digital.vpr.net/post/stoddard-bill-ryerson-global-vermonter

In his office in Shelburne VT, Bill Ryerson, founder and president of Population Media Center or PMC is unassuming, as he jokes about a foot-high stack of folders on his desk he still needs to deal with at the end of the day, before resuming a relentless travel schedule.

(Ryerson) Well, next week I will be in Washington DC speaking at the International Best Practices Meeting. The following day I’m speaking at the Inter-American Development Bank and have several other meetings. Then I fly to Ethiopia. I’ll spend nine days there with our country representative, meeting with donor agencies like UN agencies and embassies, to seek their support for what we hope will be our ninth program on Radio Ethiopia.

He’s pitching soap opera as one of the most powerful catalysts for social change. Ryerson has worked in more than 50 countries using the power of entertainment media to shift behavior patterns. PMC’s popular radio and TV serial dramas with compelling characters as role models, have led to significant change in both attitude and actions.

(Ryerson) We’ve reached well over a hundred million people. We have clearly seen dramatic increases in family planning use, dramatic increases in willingness to send daughters to school, which of course is a very important factor in both human rights, the human rights of women to be educated, and in delaying marriage and child-bearing until adulthood.

Continue Reading »

Barber Shop and Beauty Salon Program Extends Family Planning Services to Liberians

Monday, September 8th, 2014

Barber Shop and Beauty Salon Program Extends Family Planning Services to Liberians 

See: http://www.jhpiego.org/sw/content/barber-shop-and-beauty-salon-program-extends-family-planning-services-liberians

Monrovia, Liberia-When Gbeni Taylor was 16, she learned she was pregnant and worried how she would tell her family. It was a frightening and uncertain time for her and one that she would wish on no other young person. She feared her father would throw her out of the house, but her mother and other family members ensured that she remained at home and attended night school to complete her education. Gbeni’s experience is all too common in Liberia where, according to the most recent Liberia Demographic and Health Survey  2007, literacy rates are low and about one-third of girls ages 15 to 19 have begun childbearing.

In hospitals in Monrovia, says Gbeni, “you see babies carrying babies. We need to talk to them. They don’t know. They do it out of ignorance.”
Gbeni’s life changing experience, as well as seeing her friends become mothers when they were too young, led the 21-year-old hair stylist to participate in an innovative program in Liberia to educate young women about properly spacing their families. The barber shop and beauty salon family planning program, an initiative under the U.S. Agency for International Development’s Maternal and Child Health Integrated Program (MCHIP), trains employees of beauty salons and barber shops to provide family planning messages, condoms and referrals to a nearby hospital for family planning services. A total of 16 workers have been trained in four salons and shops. Since 2012, they have reached 1,100 clients and distributed 16,550 condoms through this initiative.

See: http://www.jhpiego.org/sw/content/barber-shop-and-beauty-salon-program-extends-family-planning-services-liberians

Congressional Candidate Trolls Anti-Choice Group With ‘Prevent Abortion’ Condoms

Tuesday, September 2nd, 2014

Congressional Candidate Trolls Anti-Choice Group With ‘Prevent Abortion’ Condoms 

See: http://thinkprogress.org/health/2014/08/26/3475633/james-woods-abortion-condoms/

When the National Pro-Life Alliance asked congressional candidate James Woods (D-AZ) to fill out a survey about whether he supports the “sanctity of life,” Woods came back with an unusual response. He pointed out that he does support some policies proven to lower the number of unintended pregnancies, and mailed back condoms emblazoned with the phrase “prevent abortion.”


“Thank you for taking the time to write to me about your anti-abortion stance,” Woods replied in a letter to the right-wing group. “While I cannot support policies that jeopardize the health and stability of women and their families, there are many measures that I do support that are proven to quickly enhance the well-being of women – and to significantly reduce abortion.”


In his letter, the candidate went on to list several sexual health policies that can lower the abortion rate – like expanding comprehensive sex ed, ensuring greater access to birth control, and strengthening government safety net programs for low-income women and their children. “I look forward to working together with you to promote policies like these,” he concluded.

See: http://thinkprogress.org/health/2014/08/26/3475633/james-woods-abortion-condoms/