Malawi

© RICHARD LORD
Country Director, Ipas Malawi: Pansi Katenga

Malawi’s abortion law is one of the most restrictive in Africa, as it only permits termination of pregnancy to save a woman’s life. This leads many women and girls to end unwanted pregnancies in unsafe, clandestine settings. Unsafe abortion accounts for 18% of maternal deaths in Malawi, and the health system also treats high numbers of women with complications from unsafe abortion.

Since 2005, Ipas has worked with the government and other partners in Malawi to improve treatment for abortion-related complications at public health facilities and to build an advocacy movement that includes broad-based support for improved access to safe abortion care. In 2009, Ipas Malawi collaborated with the Ministry of Health and the World Health Organization to conduct a national strategic assessment of abortion in the country. Informed by the findings of the assessment, in 2010 Ipas helped to establish the Coalition for Prevention of Unsafe Abortion (COPUA), which educates the public on unsafe abortion and builds grassroots momentum for law reform. COPUA’s members include community-based organizations, youth-focused non-governmental organizations, policymakers, traditional leaders and others, and its membership has nearly tripled in size since its inception. The coalition engages with the community through a wide range of activities, including workshops, educational dramas and radio programs.

In Malawi, youth educators train chiefs to protect reproductive health during the pandemic

In Malawi, Ipas-trained youth educators on sexual and reproductive health and rights are meeting with chiefs (local community leaders) in Ndirande to help them understand how to prevent unintended pregnancies in their communities. The youth educators also work with them to protect sexual and reproductive health services as essential services that must continue during the COVID-19 pandemic. In parts of Malawi, unintended pregnancy and unsafe abortion among young people appears to be rising sharply due to COVID-19 and its impact on communities.

Tisungane Sitima with a group of children
Courtesy Tisungane Sitima
Meet Tisungane Sitima, Malawi youth activist working to safeguard reproductive health services during COVID-19
Read more

A youth-led call for abortion law reform

Young people in Malawi are calling for the protection of sexual and reproductive health care as an essential service during the coronavirus pandemic—and also are asking lawmakers to expedite abortion law reform to ensure young people’s access to safe abortion care.

Ipas Malawi: 2019-2023 Strategic Plan

Women’s Caucus of the Malawi Parliament

Working with women leaders

Ipas Malawi joined forces with local partners in Feb. 2020 for a session with the Women’s Caucus of the Malawi Parliament to discuss the role of women leaders and the importance of addressing gender and power imbalances in the country. Ipas and partners will be providing women parliamentarians with technical information to support their deliberation on bills that will drive gender-focused agenda—including a draft bill that would expand legal access to abortion.