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ASTRA Youth at Women Deliver 2016

Women Deliver’s 4th Global Conference will be taking place on 16-19 May 2016 in Copenhagen, Denmark. It is going to be the largest gathering on girls’ and women’s health and rights in the last decade and one of the first major global conferences following the launch of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The focus of the conference will be on how to implement the SDGs so they matter most for girls and women, with a specific focus on health – in particular maternal, sexual, and reproductive health and rights – and on gender equality, education, environment, and economic empowerment. The conference will bring together world leaders, advocates, policymakers, journalists, young people, researchers, and leaders of corporate companies and civil society to showcase what it means and how it works when girls and women become the focus of development efforts.

To learn more about the Women Deliver 2016 conference download the conference 2-pager here.

ASTRA Youth representatives will attend the Women Deliver 2016 conference and contribute to conference events:

May 17th, 15:00-16:00
Youth Zone, Exhibition Hall C
ASTRA Youth and Amnesty International organizing the joint session: Respect my Rights, Respect my Dignity: Participatory ways to Tackle Taboo Topics
This session will use participatory approaches to open up conversations on  taboo subjects, identify challenges faced by diverse groups and to stand up for sexual and reproductive rights. 
Participants will first reflect on the power different individuals and groups are given in society to access their rights, after which social theatre methods will be used to discuss sexual and reproductive health and rights issues.
May 17th, 15:00-16:00
Room B3-1 Bella Center
ASTRA Youth representative is participating as a speaker at the Amnesty International panel discussion:The Impact of Criminalizing Sexuality and Reproduction: A Human Rights Violation
This session will focus on the global trend of criminalizing sexual and reproductive decisions, actions and gender expression, which impinges on individuals’ personal and bodily autonomy and violates a range of human rights worldwide. These punitive legal approaches also impede states’ achievement toward the SDGs. In this context, it appears that those who pass and enforce criminal laws and policies or are directly involved in the management of criminal justice systems have little knowledge or understanding of governments’ related human rights obligations, and/or do not fully understand or acknowledge the negative impact that criminal laws and their enforcement can have on individuals’ human rights and development more broadly. 

Those who support criminalization of sexuality and reproduction often claim that these measures protect morality, increase safety, reduce harm, or encourage health-promoting behaviours. However, these assertions are being challenged around the world, particularly by human rights activists and health experts. There is growing recognition that criminalizing sexuality and reproduction in fact increases the risks to individuals and communities and obstructs the provision of effective health services. Additionally, governments’ have an obligation to use criminal law as a last resort and to engage in evidence-based law and policy making.

Panellists will talk about their experience of being punished for exercising their sexual and reproductive rights, as well as the impact of punitive laws on their ability to provide health services. They will also share their ideas around alternative regulatory or educational approaches that may be taken that may be more effective at promoting health, particularly sexual and reproductive health and respect human rights. The group will further discuss the difficulties with historically relying upon calls for criminal legal redress for gender-based violence and yet looking beyond criminal law to address other potential harms

May 19th, 10:30-12:00
Bella Centre
Roda - Parents in Action, Eastern Europe and Central Asia Regional Caucus
ASTRA Youth representative moderating the break-out session: Health education for youth

The Caucus will focus on the issue of respectful maternity care and its importance in bringing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to fruition, so that women, babies and families can not only survive, but also thrive and transform our world. 

Join us!

National Agency for Youth Programmes, Activities Development to be created in Moldova

A National Agency for the Development of Youth Programmes and Activities will be created in the near future, in order to ensure the proper implementation of youth policies and programmes. A statement to this effect was made during the meeting of the governmental commission for youth policies, chaired by the Prime Minister Pavel Filip on April 26th, 2016. Filip praised the government’s collaboration with non-governmental organizations that develop youth policies, identify challenges and find solutions to develop this sector. “The active participation of young people in the enforcement of governmental policies is the best way to develop the country. The cabinet backs the participation of youth in the improvement of youth policies, so that they play a major role in the modernization of the society,” Filip said.

The members of the commission have also tackled the consolidation of Youth Centers, financing of youth projects through the annual Grant Programme managed by the Youth and Sports Ministry, as well as the adoption of a new legislative framework to regulate this field. The new draft law on youth will offer them equal opportunities and possibilities to enhance their knowledge, competencies and practical abilities. During the meeting, the prime minister proposed the creation of a working group in charge of assessing and monitoring the involvement of young people in sector policies and also in charge of submitting proposals that could boost up the degree of their participation. Young people account to 25 per cent, or 860 thousand people, of Moldova’s total population.

Survey on attitude towards abortion in Lithuania

In order to find out, what attitude towards abortion prevails in Lithuania, ASTRA Youth member organization, Family Planning and Sexual Health Association (FPSHA) carried out the anonymous online survey. 533 answers were collected. 71,9% of all respondents were young women (15-25 year olds), 21,6% were young adult women (26-35 year olds). 12,38% of all women who participated in the survey had an abortion, half of them (32 out of 66) were between 15 to 25 years old.

Respondents reported, that the biggest fear while choosing if to terminate pregnancy, is to experience the negative reaction from society. This can explain, why almost one third of women who had an abortion (23 out of 66) kept information about it in secret. Women, who terminated a pregnancy informed that they didn’t have comprehensive sexuality education at school and weren’t able to afford contraception because of its high price; they also lacked psychological support from their families and medical staff. They also reported that they didn’t have information where they can have abortion procedure, whether it is reimbursed or not.

The results of the survey also showed  that 73% of respondents had positive attitude towards the existence of an opportunity to have abortion, while 15,8% respondents expressed negative approach. The rest of respondents answered that their attitude ‘depends on situation’, ‘is neutral’ or is positive ‘only when we are talking about medical conditions, raped girl or families with low-income’. There were few answers that stated ‘I am in favour only on medical abortion or abortion till the 5th week’.  49,5 % of respondents stated that they support women who had the abortion, whereas 15,2% demonstrated negative opinion about such women. The rest of the respondents reported that they had neutral position, because they didn’t face the problem of unexpected pregnancy by themselves. There were only few respondents who answered: ‘I support such women, because abortion is a human right’. Also, 90,2 % of respondents believed that women who had an abortion experienced stigmatization. 80,7% of respondents agreed with the statement that stigmatization of abortion in society must be reduced. What’s important, 46,1% of respondents believed that the number of abortions could be reduced by improving  the access to contraception, and 44,7% respondents argued that comprehensive sexuality education has to be introduced to decrease abortion numbers.

Source: FPSHA

Annual meeting of HERA Youth 2016

In the end of March HERA Youth, the volunteer sector of HERA had their annual meeting, where they have revised the official documents of the youth group and developed a new action plan for 2016.

HERA Youth has also decided to restructure from 3 sectors to 2 sectors. During the meeting, HERA Youth has also formed two groups for application on the Vision 2020 fund and activities which will be conducted on 18 May 2016 and this year’s topic is comprehensive sexual education. The process for application was closed on 3th of April and it awaits decision on which group of HERA Youth is going to implement their project on the Vision 2020 fund. The group currently consists of 70 volunteers. HERA Youth is one of the most important sectors in HERA and the moving young force.

Source: HERA

Training of CSE peer educators in Macedonia

In February – March a big process of accreditation was implemented for peer educators in the field of Comprehensive sexual education by HERA Macedonia. A call was launched for interested young people and it was promoted on the social media. 21 people have applied and 17 were accepted. They have passed 2 days theoretical and interactive training in Skopje for all 7 components of the CSE. After this, they had 2 weeks of time for studying and consultation with the more experienced educators, the coordinator of the youth program and the program director of HERA. Afterwards, the examination process was organized for 3 days and the second part of this training has also covered workshops on communication and risk assessment. 14 new educators have been accredited after this process and already 2 of them are implementing the workshops in high schools in Skopje, where HERA has the pilot program for CSE peer education.

Source: HERA

Launch of the report analysis for the optional school subject Health Education - Sexuality Education component

Early April, Society for Reproductive and Sexual Education (SECS) member  of Astra Youth, in partnership with the Coalition for Gender Equality and Romania  and the Youth Council in Romania, organized the round table  where the outcomes of the analysis of the optional Health Education subject were discussed.

Besides the presentation of the report, diverse institution’s representatives discussed their views: the Presidential Administration, the Ministry of National Education and Scientific Research, Romania Youth Council, Youth and Sports Ministry, as well as representatives of World Health Organization and NGOs.

Teen pregnancy, sexually transmitted infections and gender-based violence are current realities in the Romanian society. International and national legislation recognizes the need for sexuality education in schools. But the report points out that sexuality education module included in the optional subject Education for Health isn’t a comprehensive sexuality education program. Shortcomings are evident in the subject’s content, teachers’ training, as well as monitoring and evaluation of the subject. Very few students participated in health education classes (6% in 2014-2015, according to the Ministry of Education), and even smaller number had access to sexuality education.

Other survey findings underline that combating gender violence isn’t included in the classes’ objectives and children don't learn prevention of sexual abuse and violence. During the classes extended family and traditional gender roles are described on the basis of gender stereotypes. Moreover, the information on disclosing HIV status or impact of stigmatization of HIV positive persons is not included in the content of lessons.

Teachers don’t recognize the diversity of individuals, beliefs, attitudes, behaviors, norms and values of society. Preparation to teach sexuality education isn’t a part of the training of all teachers and the quality of teaching sexuality education isn’t taken into account.

The report is available in Romanian on SECS’s website here.

Source: Coalitiei pentru Egalitate de Gen



Warsaw, April 9th 2016, Saturday, 02:00 p.m. 

Venue: the Polish Parliament (Sejm) building

We take to the streets because we refuse to accept anyone else but ourselves making decisions concerning our bodies and our lives.

We have been told for far too long that the current legislative solution is a “compromise”.

Let us show that we refuse to accept a barbaric law making us hostage to our own pregnancies.

The current anti-abortion law did not serve to reduce the number of abortions performed in Poland. It is estimated that against 1993, an unchanged number of terminations is performed in the abortion underworld – some say that the number of undocumented abortions has doubled. Polish women undergo approximately 200,000 illegal terminations per year. The so-called abortion tourism flourishes – 15% of all terminations are performed abroad. In the United Kingdom, for example, the share of Polish women among foreigners terminating pregnancies has reached 80%.

Although according to Polish law, Polish women can undergo legal termination in three cases, the reality is hugely difficult if not impossible, largely due to the conformism of the medical community, frequent abuse of the “clause of conscience”, persecution of women intending to terminate, and poor legislative knowledge in the society.

The restrictive anti-abortion law did not bring any reduction in the number of terminations; all it did was ensure that abortions are performed in dangerous and humiliating conditions, in an atmosphere of anxiety, shame, and contempt.

Pregnancy termination is no longer a simple medical procedure. It became a political matter, a bargaining chip in politics.

Prior to system transformation, Polish women could legally terminate pregnancies in safe conditions with no threat to health or life. They could make independent decisions concerning their own bodies, including the very important decision as to whether they wish to become mothers or not. In 1993, this right was taken away from them, the amended law referred to as a “compromise”. The thriving abortion underworld and abortion tourism both prove that such “abortion compromise” is complete rubbish. Women continue terminating pregnancies – albeit under great anxiety and intimidation, their health and life threatened. Even if entitled to legal abortion, they have to undergo a series of humiliating procedures, and remain hanging on someone else’s decision. Yet here we are, facing times when women can be deprived of their rights – such as they are – altogether. Over the upcoming months, politicians of both genders and priests will act in our stead, voting on a cruel and barbaric draft act filed with our Parliament by fanatics ready to sacrifice female freedom and life in the name of ideology.

ODZYSKAĆ WYBÓR (REGAINING THE CHOICE) is a coalition of feminist and other non-governmental organisations, informal groups and individuals, struggling to regain the abortion choice right we were deprived of 23 years ago.

NOTE: The demonstration is organised by grassroot communities, non-affiliated with any political parties or commercial entities.

REGAINING THE CHOICE demonstrations will also take place in other cities in Poland and in many locations around the world, for a full list of events clickHERE.

Media contact: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

POW on Facebook

Debates on Sexuality Education vs March for Life in Romania

The month of March in Romania was devoted to both heated debates on the introduction of sexuality education in schools as well as the annual march for life organized by Students for Life. The pro-choice activists did not counteract the march, but rather focused on constructive debates organized and hosted by the ministries of education and health.

The theme of this year’s March for Life was “For life, for woman, for the family”, inspired from the Washington march and it was organized in 110 cities across the country, plus 30 cities in the Republic of Moldova. The march in Bucharest was attended by 2,700 people, while all the activities along the ‘month for life’ were allegedly attended by 70,000 people. The main messages rehashed by the media were: “22 million abortions in 60 years” (in reference to the total population a few years ago) and “Romania ranks first in the EU in the number of abortions”. In conclusion, this type of march and related activities are organized by young people, they choose positive messages and gather larger numbers of people, including artists as ambassadors.

Moreover, they follow and report on pro-choice activists’ activities, such as ASTRA member Daniela Draghici: prior to the march, the ministries of education and health organized public debates on the introduction of sexuality education in the optional subject “health education” as part of the school curriculum. ASTRA delegate pointed out that the position promoted by the Gender Coalition she represented coincided with that supported by the ministries of education, health, labor, youth and raised questions referring to the measures the ministry was going to take when parents’ associations and the church were opposing the health education classes and kept promoting abstinence and showing high school students films such as “The Silent Scream” during the religion classes that are, unfortunately, part of the curriculum. At the same time, she also offered the assistance of specialized NGOs members of the Gender Coalition, the only force counteracting the anti-choice in Romania. The Students for Life representative present at the debate posted the entire address of the ASTRA member, accompanied by a photo taken from the Facebook account without permission, where Daniela Draghici was impersonating the Holy See at a EuroNGOs conference. 

Overall, the Ministry of education debate was a positive one that took note of participants’ suggestions, with the promise to be followed by other such targeted meetings. The debates at the Ministry of Health, on the other hand, were marked by anti-choice presence that attempted to destabilize the purpose of the meetings. Nevertheless, the position held by the ministry of health is firm and supportive of making “health education” a compulsory subject in schools, but it will not be possible for a couple of years because of lack of trained personnel. Again, the ASTRA member representing the Gender Coalition stressed the paramount importance of maintaining sexuality education in the health education optional subject, sought a commitment from the ministry representatives, and assured them of the full support and expertise of the specialized NGOs.

Written by Daniela Draghici, member of the Society for Feminist Analyses – AnA, part of the Romanian Gender Coalition

Anti-choice attacks against women in Poland

Poland is once again facing a real threat to the reproductive rights of women and girls.

The currently ruling conservative party, Law and Justice, aims to redesign Polish democracy and to reestablish the “traditional” and “Catholic” values and also gain more independence from the European Union. The Catholic Church in Poland is very powerful and has many supporters within today’s Government. It does also of course oppose IVF, emergency contraception, sexuality education, abortion and sees its main enemy in the word “gender”. The anti-choice community, with great support from the Catholic and conservative groups, is currently very strong as the current government consists mainly of politicians with conservative attitudes.


The “Stop Abortion” civic committee has almost succeeded in submitting a draft law introducing a complete ban on abortion and a new category into the criminal code – “prenatal murder”, which will  introduce penalty of 3 to 5 years in prison for women, doctors and anyone helping a woman to perform an abortion. If abortion is unintentional the penalty will be up to 3 years. The Court will have the possibility to drop charges. In the rationale, the authors of the draft law quote the teachings of Polish Pope, John Paul II, refer to the Polish constitution which grants legal protection to all human beings (it doesn’t however clarify when human life begins) and also selectively quote the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. Additionally they also propose to replace the term “human fetus” with “conceived child” where possible. The draft law doesn’t at all refer to the protection of woman’s life, health and wellbeing. 

This anti-choice initiative is currently waiting for the decision of the Marshall of the Sejm on whether it will be registered. If successful, the “Stop Abortion” committee will then have 3 months to collect 100 000 signatures to ensure that the law will be debated in the Polish Sejm.

Only recently Polish Prime Minister, Beata Szydło, said that she supports this initiative and “hopes for a reasonable voice on behalf of the episcopate to ensure a substantive discussion”. This coming Sunday, April 3rd, the statement of the Polish episcopate will be read aloud in all churches in Poland. The signatories of this document state that life begins from the moment of conception and ends with natural death. They will call upon all people, Parliamentarians and policy makers to ensure legal protection of unborn children.

Only recently we have faced the first step towards limiting women’s reproductive rights as the Polish Ministry of Health will reinstate the prescription requirement for emergency contraception (ellaOne) in about three months. “Concern for women's well-being, especially that of the youngest women” is the rationale for this move. In 2015, thanks to the European Commission ruling, this emergency contraception pill became available over the counter for all women above 15 years of age.

ASTRA statement for 60th CSW

ASTRA's statement for the 60th session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women is available HERE

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