When policies endanger reproductive freedom and the lives of women and girls

AMODEFA – the IPPF member in Mozambique – has been running for 30 years. “This last decade should have been the phase of sustainability. This phase has been pushed back and we feel we are going back 10 years. The demand has been placed, but now, we can’t provide the services due to lack of funds” said Marcelo Kantu, from AMODEFA.

AMODEFA was forced to close 10 of its 22 clinics across the country due to the effects of the Global Gag Rule (GGR). Most of the clinics that were closed had been providing youth-friendly services for free.

The GGR is not in line with the will of the Mozambican people or government. The position of the Mozambican government remains strong. 

Lidia Chongo, Deputy Advisor of the Department of Gender and Social Affairs at the Mozambican Ministry of Health, remarks how “Some entities chose to not fund certain aspects of sexual and reproductive health, but some look at a human being as a whole, in a comprehensive way, so we are trying to encourage that thinking”.

Yet, the GGR inhibits Mozambicans’ access to much needed care.

In 2017, in the Gaza Province, AMODEFA had 47 staff members and 600 peer educators, currently they only have 8 staff members and 31 educators. “Due to the GGR we had to stop providing health care to many in need. In the month of September 2017, we could provide care to 7950 young people. In October we could provide care to only 894 young people. In the months of November, December of 2017 our clinics were already severely affected by the lack of funds. It was then when we received help from the Belgian government through the She Decides initiative” said Felismina Amoda, Provincial Coordinator in Gaza for AMODEFA.

Felismina Amoda, Provincial Coordinator in Gaza for AMODEFA. She has been working at AMODEFA for the past 12 years. “Health is life. Without access to sexual and reproductive health care, we will have high rates of HIV, STIs among other dire consequences.”

Photo credit: Cosmina Marian/C2030E

The consequences of the GGR on organisations providing SRHR are massive. Young people no longer have access to quality care, contraception, or simply, to a safe space. They feel lost.

Felismina has been working at AMODEFA for 12 years and says she hasn’t seen anything like this before. 

“When I started here, we were building this clinic and we had so many young people coming in. Now there are not so many of them coming in because we don’t have as many peer educators as before who used to reach out to the community” she notes this while looking at the nearly empty waiting room of the clinic in Xai Xai.

Xai Xai is a big city and there is too much ground to cover now with the reduction of peer educators and activists. 

“With the current reduction in the number of peer educators our job has become more difficult” said Dorcas Joaquim Filipe Chachucuo, 24-year-old activist. But Dorcas remains positive, “I think even with the lack of funds if we, the activists, work hard we can still make a change. If you come back in 5-10 years, I hope you’ll be able to see a change.”

Dorcas Joaquim Filipe Chachucuo, 24 years, joined by other AMODEFA activists in Xai-Xai, speaking with a young woman, holding her small child, about family planning methods. Young woman: “It is difficult to be a mother without work, I have many needs and so at a certain point you start to regret it. You need clothes for the baby, and other things, so I would not wish for that to happen to someone who is not ready.”

Photo credit: Cosmina Marian/C2030E

Activists like Dorcas believe in what they are doing and the change they can ignite. She didn’t have access to sex and relationship education and hopes to help young people develop crucial life skills that would enable them to lead safe and happy lives.

“I remember when I first started working as an activist, when visiting a public clinic asking for an implant, the health care providers were asking why would I need this, and asking about my relationships. Now things have changed, you can see big queues at clinics, people are trying to access family planning” continued Dorcas.

Dorcas Joaquim Filipe Chachucuo, AMODEFA activist talking with a school student about different contraceptive methods. Monica Jose Sidumo, 21 years old, (on the right side) never went to a family planning clinic before, but is using condoms and would like to finish her studies have 2 children later in life.

Photo credit: Cosmina Marian/C2030E

The demand for family planning is clearly there, but the lives of some of the most vulnerable groups of people have now been jeopardised due to gaps in funding.

AMODEFA can only provide care through the clinics still open thanks to support from UNFPA, the She Decides initiative and the governments of Sweden and Canada. These donors have stood firm in their commitment to reproductive freedom for all Mozambicans. Now more than ever, donors must redouble their efforts to ensure that women and families can lead dignified, reproductive lives.

Mobile clinic run by AMODEFA in collaboration with the Mozambican government. They travel across Gaza Province offering family planning. At the beginning people in communities were reticent about visiting the nurses, but now it is part of their routine. 

Photo credit: Cosmina Marian/C2030E

Main Photo: Woman in Gaza Province. 

Photo credit: Cosmina Marian/C2030E

Article by Cosmina Marian/C2030E

Read the next blog in our series about family planning in Mozambique.