Sexual and reproductive health advocacy throughout a pandemic

Sexual and reproductive health advocacy is as important ever. People currently have reduced power over their own bodies and their own healthcare.

The pandemic has seen increasing restrictions on contraceptive and abortion care in an effort to prioritise resources toward the fight against the spread of COVID-19.

The COVID-19 pandemic provides us with a unique opportunity to change our health systems and structures. To a system which is accessible, responsive and equitable for all bodies. Here are five examples of actions that we could take now to effectively direct our energy and resources.

Locate ourselves

Acknowledge the land on which you live and access healthcare. Aboriginal knowledges are woven through and around us globally. Pandemics have existed for centuries, while Aboriginal cultures and methods of sexual and reproductive healthcare have existed for millennia.

Respect the knowledge that Elders bring to our current situation, globally. If you haven’t already, reflect upon your own recent history and access to reproductive and sexual healthcare. If possible, research your own bloodlines and genomics.

Equip ourselves

Thanks to digital cultures we now have access to more sexual and reproductive health information than ever. Read, consume and share education materials published by accurate sources on sexuality, relationships, health and wellbeing. Consider who in your online and IRL communities may not have access to those same resources. If those people want to access it, support them to do so.

Source age appropriate relationships and sexuality education resources. Build positive and protective skills. Articulate how you maintain open, safe and healthy communication within your household, family or community. As relationships increasingly shift to digital cultures, consider what consent, pleasure, love, conflict and accountability means to you when communicating online.

Doula each other

A doula is one word for a person who holds space, provides support and advocates for others. They support people during big life events such as menarche, pregnancy, abortion or birth, partnership or divorce, sickness and death. Consider if you could benefit from having access to a doula. If you are interested in being a doula, connect with online doula communities and learn more about methods of doula care.

Open conversations and prepare for sexual and reproductive health needs that are emerging for yourself, your friends or family. They may include intended pregnancy and birth, unintended pregnancy options, incontinence, peri-menopause or gynaecological cancer. Discuss how you can support each other through these times, and consider where intersections of grief and loss may emerge.

Move beyond self-care

We are making a global effort to support health systems, including sexual and reproductive healthcare. We each demonstrate support and express compassion in various ways. Avoid competitive compassion. Consider where and when you may be experiencing compassion fatigue.

This will be a long haul. Define what restorative practice means to you. Hibernate where possible to replenish energy. Think beyond self-care. Move into your power. Reflect on what radical self-love means to you.

Share power

People across the globe are struggling to gain and maintain sexual and reproductive health rights. A lot of community led movements are voicing their perspectives. They need to be seen and heard. How could you share your power to platform others. Consider where you are willing to surrender your power in support of health justice.

Recovery from the pandemic will require collective energy and strategy. Our activism will be stronger when working together. Prior to the pandemic our sexual and reproductive health systems were riddled with inequity and discrimination. In the pandemic recovery we will have an opportunity to change that. Together we can and will work towards sexual and reproductive rights for all.

Tizita Yohannes is a Health Consumer Advisor at Marie Stopes Australia. You can follow her on Twitter.

Bonney Corbin is the Senior Policy Officer at Marie Stopes Australia. You can follow her on Twitter.

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MSI Australia

MSI Australia is the leading, accredited, national provider for abortion, contraception and vasectomy.