Posted by Kimberley Meijers on January 27, 2017 at 12:19 pm
Share-Net Netherlands was asked by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to organize a round table for Share-Net members to meet and exchange with the Guttmacher Institute. From the Guttmacher Institute Ann Stars (President & CEO), Jonathan Wittenberg (Vice President for Development), Gilda Sedgh (Principal Research Scientist) and Elena ..(x) were present. From the members a small, but representative group joined the table. Present were: Prismaweb, Oxfam Novib, Rutgers, Radio Netherlands Worldwide, Vrije Universiteit (VU), an independent consultant and of course the Ministry itself. Share-Net was very honored to organize this lively informal exchange.
Members were interested to know from the Institute how they deal with the growing polarized discussions about abortion, for instance within faith based organisations. But also outside, what do the US elections mean for us and our work? Ann Stars mentions that Guttmacher is a pro-choice organization, but within the research that the Institute is doing that is not a factor of importance. Regarding the changing environment in which we are working it is important to look for opportunities to continue the work, also look for opportunities to engage with the Trump administration by focusing for instance on Family Planning, help to prevent unintended pregnancies and indirectly abortions. A Share-Net member adds that also for them it is crucial to carefully select partners in Southern Countries to collaborate with.
Another issue that arises is how the Institute manages to obtain good data in countries where there are restrictive abortion laws. Gilda explains that indeed it is difficult to get reliable information, but the Institute has various ways in which they try the best they can to verify the data. There are no (open) hospital records, but it is possible to ask health care providers in clinics that provide post abortion care what their case load is on abortion related complications. Put out surveys to people who are knowledgeable, triangulate, get your information from different sources and compare.
The discussion moves on to another very urgent issue in the current global situation: SRHR needs and Gender based Violence in fragile/humanitarian settings. The institute mentions that they do not have experience in this particular field yet, however they are aware of the existing research gaps and see what their role can be. At the moment there is some seed money available from DFID to do preliminary assessments, but there is not a lot of push from the policy level. The perception pertains that budget available needs to go to shelter, food, etc. – the basics. Share-Net members are taking part of or are aware of several working groups in this field and have opportunities to obtain data from these partnerships. The importance on (reliable) data is stressed when it is mentioned that in Western Europe abortion rate is increasing – as the only region in the world. However, the large part of these women are from other parts if the world, development countries, and came as immigrants to Europe. On the data wish list, besides data in humanitarian settings, is specific information on young people (10-14 years).
The last part of the conversation swifts to the situation in the Netherlands and what the members think of the current (political) climate. There is a fear for right wing populists and there is doubt if we are still ‘on the ground’. It is feared that young people are less progressive than before. The Institute asks if members are trying to align with other organisations, just outside the range of SRHR, on the fringes, to broaden the base. This is done here and there, but not on a systematic manner.
When rounding up this interesting conversation, everyone agrees that this was a good way of informing each other in an informal setting. Share-Net will make sure that issues are taken forward and that more moments in the future will occur to meet and exchange. Next opportunity will be the thematic meeting on contraception and abortion planned for April 2017.