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In every setting where we gather, inroads members value and learn from sharing creatively and doing together. In fact, so many members incorporate arts, creativity, games and storytelling in their stigma-busting work, the inroads team intentionally created multiple spaces and opportunities throughout the five days for arts and demo sessions while we had the benefit of being in the same location with each other.
This blog-post is the second part of a photo and text series that moves through the major moments of the 3rd inroads Global Member Gathering (iGMG).
Each morning began with some singing and movement. Milan sang us a song about the intersections between HIV and abortion stigma busting, Sybil shared with us the Misoprostol song her group GIWYN developed that teaches people the steps of a self managed medical abortion, and Cyril helped us train our vocal chords.
Karolina Więckiewicz led us through an Abortion Embroidery session, which uses the needle as a tool of storytelling and also for advocacy, and the stitches of this workshop continued throughout the five days.
At the same time Milan Khadka, Mala Neupanae and Shanta Shrestha took us through some Street Theatre from rural Nepal. Later, Pushpa Joshi guided people through a Fertility Dance, using a uterus drawing made on the floor of the room!
And in another space, Imameleng Masitha led other members through a hand-mapping exercise that is based on the theory that trauma, tension, and memories are stored physically in the body.
Members also gathered for the first real-life inroads Open-Mic that had a mix of poetry, music and stand-up comedy.
And at night, some people came out to view and participate in the Film and Art Festival that was curated by Emma Campbell and Imameleng Masitha. The entrance to the festival hall displayed a collection of embroidery, graphic art and paintings. The film screenings featured clips of documentaries, animations, movement videos coupled with information sharing videos.
At the mid-way point of our gathering members engaged in the inroads Exchange Festival, which works like a flea-market, idea and material swap, and lively festival of exchange! The exchange festivals are an important part of inroads gatherings, usually placed at the mid-way point of the gatherings. This festival is inspired by non-monetary forms of swap and exchange that exist all over the world!
Members shared IEC materials, stickers, t-shirts, badges, bags and art prints. Also people shared videos and audios on their laptop screens and used this opportunity to collect feedback from members about their communications materials. If a certain idea of a zine inspired someone, they could take it home to show their team other possible ways of creating counter-narratives to stigma.
In contrast to breakout sessions, Demo sessions are a way for members to demonstrate in practice an exercise from a workshop, record a snippet of a podcast, or take members through what a typical day in the work of an acompanante. Therefore, demonstration sessions go deeper into the complexities of each person’s context, organization, local dynamics and also the creative solutions and ideas that people have developed. It is a chance for members to get together, using their fingers, toes, hearts and heads to imagine a world without abortion stigma.
A lot of abortion work focusses on story-telling or story-collection. In this session, Melissa who runs the Abortion Diary podcast demonstrated the importance of listening to stories, developing a sense of empathy and centering the experience of abortion is in all the work.
In this session, Shanta demonstrated how the Beyond Beijing Committee (BBC) works in rural areas of Nepal on value clarification. This session allowed members to put themselves into the shoes of people who need abortions in very remote settings and also live surrounded by a complex degree of community level and individual level stigma.
Omodele demonstrated the facilitation of a form of storytelling that allows for emotional release and counselling in all situations. The particular situation that she uses it most in, through the work of Institution to Resist Institutional Slavery and Exploitation (iRISE) is that of refugee communities in Nigeria, where degrees of trauma and difficulty are very high.
Daniela walked participants through a game that is used by the Fondo Maria team in Mexico to demonstrate the varieties of life experiences, stigma and abortion experiences that people have. This game creates a sense of empathy and also emphasises the diverse advocacy strategies that are necessary.
The Ipas Stigma toolkit is designed to help community members, health workers, activists and staff of community-based organizations and others address abortion stigma in various settings.
The Abortion Dream Team took participants through the work of accompaniment in a restrictive setting of Poland. They stressed on the importance of Self-Managed Abortions and how they work to create a network of support in a context where the powers at play create stigma by banning support.
Jayne took participants through the creation of the UCL Medical School curriculum and the ways in which to create a non-stigmatizing curriculum.
Though inroads membership is diverse in the experience and expertise levels, connecting through art, demonstration, exchange and participation, provided a way for attendees to explore the nuances of stigma, internalized and otherwise. There are many facets of abortion stigma that are hard to explain, that cannot be intellectualized. Through art and expression, participants were able to share more about the methods that they are employing to directly influence stigma in their communities.