Women’s Promotion Center (WPC) from Tanzania was created in 2002 with a vision of creating a society that recognizes and respects women’s rights and dignity, and upholds equality between women and men. WPC’s mission is to foster and empower women’s groups to build a strong women’s grassroots movement that would bring about positive change in individual behavior and social policy.
WPC focuses its work on two major areas:
- Gender discrimination and violence. WPC empowers and supports local communities in raising awareness on gender, its dynamics and effects on women’s welfare and the society and in promoting gender equality and behavior change.
- Sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR). WPC focuses on community mobilization to ensure and increase women and girls’ access to life saving SRHR information and quality sexual and reproductive health (SRH) services, to promote safe motherhood, to prevent unsafe abortions and to advocate for women and youth’s SRHR.
WPC works intensely on reducing the incidence of unsafe abortion and maternal deaths. To address these issues WPC uses harm reduction strategy that involves the following three components:
- Giving information on the correct use of Misoprostol for safe motherhood,
- Reducing stigma towards abortion, and
- Increasing women’s access to contraceptives and lifesaving commodities.
WPC gives priority to work on grassroots level, as they believe that direct contact with women at community level is key for saving women’s lives and improving community health. A fine example of successful grassroots efforts was Save Mothers’ Lives Initiative implemented in 2009. The goal of the initiative was to raise community awareness using word-of-mouth approach on the potential use of Misoprostol in preventing maternal mortality. The information about the uses of Misoprostol circulated virally among women across local communities and districts, and each woman became “a candle that lit other candles”.
In 2010 witnessing continuous suffering and deaths of women from post-partum hemorrhage (PPH), WPC supported the availability of contraception, Misoprostol and other reproductive commodities in local pharmacies to save women’s lives. The uniqueness of this initiative was that WPC is not a health organization; it focuses on women’s rights advocacy, but recognizing health needs in their community WPC took action to save women’s lives.
In 2012, WPC embarked on abortion advocacy with the support from Women’s Global Network for Reproductive Rights (WGNRR). Together with other 10 organizations, WPC was trained to conduct policy analysis and advocacy using human rights framework and rights-based approach. The organizations formed a coalition and conducted policy analysis producing a report on abortion policies in Tanzania. The findings of this analysis constituted a powerful and inspirational advocacy tool nurturing the debate among partners on the necessity of creating a national SRHR alliance to end maternal mortality and morbidity due to unsafe abortion.
In 2013 -2014, WPC SRHR program extended its activities to equip women, men and youth with SRHR information including information on sexuality, contraception, unwanted pregnancies, STIs/HIV, safe motherhood and abortion, and to increase women’s access to SRH commodities through community mobilization and SRH hotline. In March 2014 WPC hosted a hotline training organized together with WGNRR partners in Africa, namely WPC, Trust for Indigenous Culture and Health (TICAH) from Kenya, and Generation Initiative for Women and Youth network (GIYWN) from Nigeria. The aim of the training was to prepare WPC and GWYIN to run a reproductive health hotline that provided reproductive health information including information about misoprostol for safe abortion and prevention of PPH, which are two major causes of maternal mortality in Tanzania and Nigeria. The gathering was also a great linking and learning opportunity on how to increase women’s access to medical abortion commodities through pharmacies.
In its work WPC faces many challenges. Restrictive and contradictory laws and policies, stigma and misinformation and strong opposition make it difficult to advance women’s SRHR.
Despite the challenges WPC can boast with great achievements, including breaking the silence on SRHR issues especially on abortion; enabling urban and rural women to take control over their reproductive choices and increasing access to sexual and reproductive health commodities.