Pardon our dust! How Fem is growing in South Africa

it has been just over one month since Fem launched in Gauteng. Our goal has always been to provide women across South Africa with the information they need to obtain safe, legal abortion care. We started in Gauteng for a few reasons: it’s where our staff is located, it’s where many of our stakeholders are located, and Gauteng is a diverse and heavily populated province.

We have been tracking the numbers since launch – how many times the platform has been used (338 different individuals have started the flow), and how many referrals have been made (272 as of April 11) – and we know that Fem is working to help women. Our numbers have consistently grown since we went live [see our last blog post for even more break down:]. Now, we’re ready to keep expanding our reach into other provinces. Want to know how we’re doing it?

While we started in Gauteng, we are not done growing there. Our local staff is continuing to visit health facilities on a weekly basis in order to regularly add providers to our platform. Ensuring that we always refer women to high-standard care facilities is of upmost importance to us, and it is why we are taking the time to visit each provider from this province in person. Through this process, we will be adding approximately 8-10 locations on a monthly basis.

Branching Out
In order to add more public and private health facilities in every province, we are conducting verification phone calls with health facilities that provide abortion. We are in the process of hiring another part-time staff person for this very purpose. This additional human resource will allow us to more quickly call health facilities, ensure they provide safe, legal, high-quality abortion care to women who choose it, and then add them to the Fem platform for referrals. Through this process we will be able to add approximately 50 providers on a monthly basis with the goal of having at least one public and one private provider in every province within the next six months.

Allowing Providers to Opt-in
Another way we are quickly expanding our presence throughout the country is by allowing abortion providers to opt-in to the Fem platform. We have already received interest from providers who want to be listed as a referral for women, and we will be taking advantage of this enthusiasm by prioritizing the verification and listing of providers who volunteer to be a part of Fem. Are you a provider of abortion? Get in touch by sending an SMS with the word “SUPPORT” to 30816.

Listening to Feedback
A critical piece of ensuring that our list of abortion service providers to whom we refer women remains up-to-date and up-to-standards is to collect feedback about the actual experience of getting an abortion from the women who use our platform. To this end, we are implementing a Feedback Campaign. Fem’s Feedback Campaign will act as a supplement to the Referral Campaign by engaging women who have received a referral from Fem, via SMS, and collecting information about their experience. Not only are we continually adding providers to our platform, we are ensuring that ones already on it should remain on it.

As a pilot project, Fem is constantly growing and changing. Our mission is to protect and support a woman’s right to choose, and we are actively working to make that a reality across the entire country. Pardon our dust while we make it happen!

By:Hilary Towle