On Right to Know Day, September 28th, ARTICLE 19 published a study on access to information in the fight against obstetric fistula in Tambacounda, South eastern region of Senegal, and called on the authorities to adopt a law on access to information and improve access to information on women’s reproductive health.
Access to information is mentioned in the Senegalese Constitution but there is no specific legislation to ensure the right in practice. To promote access to information, ARTICLE 19 has developed activities to gauge the level of understanding and ownership of this right.
As part of the program on access to information and the fight against fistula rolled out in Tambacounda since 2012, ARTICLE 19 conducted a survey from 24 to 28 May 2014 with the aim to assess the current level of information, knowledge on the prevalence and treatment of obstetric fistula. The study also provides basic information for the implementation of relevant interventions in the fight against fistula that affects about 400 women every year according to official figures.
The study was based on a quantitative survey across a sample of 400 users identified in health facilities and 70 questionnaires administered to medical personnel.
Only 12% of those surveyed had ever heard of fistula and prevention methods such as banning early marriages, early pregnancies and female genital mutilation.
Medical staff (36.5%) and radio (33%) are the primary sources of information of the surveyed population. This situation highlighted the need to encourage the proactive sharing of information because people rarely seek information if they do not know it is available.
It is worth noting that despite the lack of a law on access to information, the right to know is understood by the medical staff who often encourage and try to help patients to be more aware of their rights.
“The prevention and treatment of obstetric fistula requires high political commitment from national policy makers and organizations working in Reproductive Health” says Fatou Jagne Senghore, Regional Director ARTICLE 19 West Africa. It is essential that government and non-governmental structures define and implement coordinated inter-sectoral actions to promote access to information for better behavior change on issues related to maternal and reproductive health.
Furthermore, ARTICLE 19 calls on the government of Senegal to adopt a law on access to information and further promote the culture of openness and information sharing to improve women’s health and sanitation conditions in the Tambacounda region and throughout the country.
You can download the report here (in French).
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