Abortion in Johannesburg: Painting the town safe

From a young age, girls are exposed to posters on the side of the road reading “quick & painless abortion”. It doesn’t take long before this message is ingrained in their heads and such information is ready to be used in case they ever find themselves in this situation.

Abortion in South Africa is rarely spoken about. The spaces in which we find ourselves getting educated about it are specialized and hard to access. But abortion is legal and there are professional and registered providers all over the country that can offer the service in the safest way possible.

Since its launch, Fem’s main goal is to guarantee connections to safe providers for women. This is why, on Safe Abortion International Day, the Fem team has decided to challenge the issue of unsafe providers who are promoting their procedures around the country. There are hundreds of these posters plastered around communities in South Africa. As soon as a poster starts to lose visual appeal, it is replaced with another until more layers are pasted on top of each other.

Fem paints the town safe.

Removing the posters was not easy. A team of 12 dedicated people from Fem and Activate Change Drivers were there to tackle the issue along with the support of Pikitup the waste management service provider to the City of Joburg. They provided us with gloves, as well as plastic bags to throw the posters away once removed . We used butter knives and vinegar to remove the posters.

Fem cleans Joburg.

We are a 100% certain that the posters that were removed will quickly be replaced by illegal providers. And not only through such activities, but also through communication interventions that all sorts of stigma around abortion, such as the Abortion Myth Busters initiative and the iExpress art campaign.

Fem wants these walls to be filled with safe abortion providers promotion, and we are willing to offer our own mapping information of verified facilities where one can be well-treated regardless of their personal decision.

The response from the clean up was beyond everything we had ever imagined. We’ve received messages of support from all over the country and we will continue this movement. You’re welcome to join us and to organize your own clean-ups! Let us know when it will happen and Fem will support you.

About Fem: Fem – Connecting you to sexual health choices

Fem supports the right of every woman to make safe and informed decisions about her body, most specifically the decision to have an abortion. We focus on the practical issues that are often overlooked by existing healthcare systems: privacy, transparency, convenience, cost, and supportive environments.

Fem is an SMS platform that refers women to safe and legal abortion service providers in their area, quickly and privately. The user simply sends the trigger word ‘Fem’ to the short code 30816 via SMS, and receives a referral SMS to a legal and safe health facility in their area.

To access all our products SMS for free the word “Fem” to 30705.
Find us on Facebook & Twitter: Fem_RSA

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By Dineo Mokwena

How a young group of artists opened the debate on safe abortion in Gauteng