African musicians lend a creative voice to the fight against unsafe abortion

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

performer in front of crowd

Musicians in two African nations are joining forces with Ipas and other reproductive rights advocates to raise awareness about the dangers of unsafe abortion.

In Malawi, the Coalition for the Prevention of Unsafe Abortion (COPUA) collaborated with 11 Malawian musical artists to produce Amayi Akuferanji, an album of reggae, hip-hop and songs from other musical genres highlighting the need for women’s access to safe, legal abortion care.

Ipas Ghana and the Musicians Union of Ghana (MUSIGA) are teaming up to encourage musicians to learn about women’s reproductive rights and to use their creative skills and popular influence to spread that knowledge through music.

At a recent workshop organized by Ipas Ghana and MUSIGA, 80 musicians and others in the music industry heard from speakers including Dzifa Gomashie, Ghana’s deputy minister of Tourism, Culture and Creative Arts; Deborah Freeman, MUSIGA’s general secretary; and Ipas Ghana’s country leader, Dr. Koma Jehu-Appiah, who spoke about the need to eliminate the stigma associated with abortion and to raise public awareness that safe, legal abortions are available in Ghana. The first in a three-part series, the workshop also explored ways to infuse issues of women's reproductive health into song lyrics.

Ghana Musicians Union meeting

Photo: A speaker at the Ghana workshop addresses participants.

In Malawi, where abortion is legal only to save a woman’s life, Ipas is working with COPUA and other women’s health and rights advocates for legal reform to permit broader access to care. Under the current restrictive law, tens of thousands of women each year resort to risky procedures to terminate unwanted pregnancies, often resulting in serious complications or death. 

“Having a more liberal law on abortion in Malawi will go a long way in ending needless injuries and deaths due to unsafe abortion,” says COPUA chairperson Godfrey Kangaude. “We believe these songs by prominent artists will help Malawians understand the impact of the current restrictive law and the need to support government efforts to reform it.”

“Research shows that we cannot completely eliminate the need for abortion, but we can create an environment for women and girls to make safe decisions about their sexual and reproductive health,” Kangaude says.

As one of the artists, Wendy Harawa, told the Malawi online publication BNL Times, “Music is the universal language of humanity. When we sing songs with important messages, people enjoy listening to them while grasping the message.”

Thousands of Malawians, including many young people, turned out on November 22 for the official launch of Amayi Akuferanji, which will be distributed for free. The launch was broadcast on government-sponsored radio station MBC Radio 1 and featured musical performances, as well as addresses from government health officials who spoke about the impact of unsafe abortion.

Fannie Kachale, director of the Malawi Ministry of Health’s Reproductive Health Unit, took part in the ribbon-cutting ceremony to kick off the event. “Music reaches and touches many. It takes dedication and commitment to write songs and produce them,” she said. “I would like to congratulate our Malawian musicians for composing these songs.” She thanked Ipas for its work with the government and COPUA in support of women’s health, and urged other advocates in health sector to emulate the example of COPUA.

Read more about unsafe abortion in Malawi: The severity of abortion complications in Malawi