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Strengthening Evidence-Based Policy to Expand Access to Safe Abortion (SAFE ENGAGE)

The SAFE ENGAGE project supports safe abortion access by providing decisionmakers with the latest data on abortion, strengthening the capacity of advocates to achieve policy goals, and working with journalists to improve evidence-based reporting.

The Challenge

Thousands of women in sub-Saharan Africa die each year from pregnancy-related causes. Unsafe abortions account for one in seven maternal deaths in Africa, and more than 1.5 million women are treated each year for complications from unsafe abortion. Young African women are especially affected: More than half of unsafe abortions in the region are among women under age 25. Reducing deaths from unsafe abortion requires a policy environment that supports women to equitably access comprehensive prevention and treatment services—contraception, safe abortion, and postabortion care.

Our Approach

The three-year SAFE ENGAGE project is implemented in countries across sub-Saharan Africa, including Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Lagos state in Nigeria, and Zimbabwe. SAFE ENGAGE also contains a rapid response mechanism through which other national and regional partners can request creative, data-driven communications materials to support specific advocacy objectives.

 

SAFE ENGAGE

  • Advances policy dialogue for safe abortion by creating compelling evidence-based multimedia presentations and other materials for policymakers, advocates, and journalists.
  • Builds country-level individual and institutional capacity to use evidence for policy advocacy to promote safe abortion and reduce unsafe abortion.
  • Works with journalists to increase the quality and quantity of evidence-based news coverage on safe abortion through in-country media training and journalists’ engagement.

Impact

SAFE ENGAGE established four country-level task forces that brought together demographers, economists, medical professionals, women’s health and rights proponents, policymakers from government ministries, and parliamentarians for discussions about abortion. These task forces created spaces for collaboration and information sharing that broadened dialogue to include new perspectives, created consensus around objectives and messages, and renewed a focus on evidence. Each task force produced and disseminated ENGAGE multimedia presentation packages. This process strengthened the capacity of task force members to use data and messaging effectively in their own presentations and materials, strengthened collaboration and consensus among safe abortion champions, and generated important policy conversations that are continuing today.

SAFE ENGAGE also supported an intensive media training effort to equip a cadre of journalists in each country to accurately report on the policies and laws surrounding abortion and the determinants, incidence, and consequences of unsafe abortion. Each country setting required its own context-specific focus, and this tailored approach has reaped the reward of high-quality reporting across diverse news outlets.

During the second phase of the project, SAFE ENGAGE built on the work of the task forces by conducting policy communication training and regional learning exchanges to strengthen Task Force members’ ability to communicate with policy audiences and foster collaboration across neighboring countries. The regional learning exchanges also allowed participants to learn from each other’s successes and brainstorm approaches to overcoming shared challenges. SAFE ENGAGE also produced a guide to policy dialogue for safe abortion, which synthesized learning from the first phase of the project.