Supporting a culture of self-help at the community level: Las Comadres


Individuals do not exist in isolation from communities. Supporting a culture of self-help at the community level emphasizes this connections and builds collective power, while simultaneously giving individuals immediate relief and support. When people are supported and empowered in their choices and are linked to support in their own communities, the stigma and silence surrounding abortion are challenged. ”

Marlene G Fried and Susan Yanow

This month’s story series is about inroads members accompanying people’s abortions across the world. While there is a growing need for self-managed abortions to bust stigma that exists in different legal contexts or medical establishments, there is also a need to understand what building a community of companionship for abortions looks like. The members who we speak to work as doulas, companions and even comadres, roughly translating as godmothers. We have blogposts from Ecuador, Peru, Poland and USA

The third blogpost features Las Comadres from Ecuador, a name that translates as godmother but could be any woman who you trust, your neighbour, your friend. Las Comadres emerged as a response to the demands and needs of women in Ecuador, where women are increasingly criminalized and with restrictions to access a safe abortion and the medicine that makes it possible, Misoprostol.

Coming together as one!

How and Why do Las Comadres do the work of accompaniment?

” As Comadres, we are many and we are more and more: diverse women who come together because our stories and those of other women move us; together recognizing antagonistic feelings that complement each other and ignite that fire that drives us. On the one hand, the helplessness we feel when we are affected by the consequences of the clandestinization to which the State and society lags behind us, by conceiving abortion as an illegal and morally negative act; which makes the women and pregnant bodies that we decide to abort be stigmatized, criminalized and even die in unsafe abortions. But, in turn, we feel the desire to specify in our present and everyday life other possible worlds, in which the autonomy of our bodies is a reality.

Our main commitment is towards the social decriminalization of abortion and thus the need to “declandestinize accompaniments”, meet again among women, facilitate information as a political act by occupying public spaces to “talk and hear about abortion”, and in those stories weave and share everything that women can create and imagine.

What do we do?

We have a telephone line (+593) 099 888 3339, through it:

· We disseminate information on how to abort with medicines and facilitate access, questioning the market that deceives and profits from women.

· We meet face to face during and in the post meetings: with and among women, recognizing ourselves and breaking the silence that has been imposed around the subject. These meetings enhance access to clear, secure and non-prejudiced information, which makes our decisions take force and we appropriate ourselves with less fear, but also generates the possibility of looking at each other and sharing our experiences in the first person, questioning the moral and social sanction that “! I’m not the only one that it is happening to! ”

The meetings between women have allowed to strengthen and expand the network, as well as open the possibility of knowing other life stories, understanding the care strategies that women have and in a moment make it possible to feel part of a whole, of something that is more beyond “my story.” On the other hand, reflecting on welfare actions, this has allowed us to gradually walk to self-management and enable networking to promote reciprocal and cooperative practices.

We have considered the importance of speaking from an ethic of feminist care, care practices that can only be collective and in that context the need for spaces for face-to-face meeting between us, to open spaces to reflect on our practice, constantly look at us , meet and recognize each other, to return to our commons and bet as Silvia Federici says to a “happy militancy.”

Accompanying strategies among women have always existed and the challenge is to continue supporting them despite legal contexts since health services fail to respond, replicate systems of power and social inequality, and reproduce sexist violence and discrimination. The specialized services do not consider information, containment or accompaniment spaces as a public health priority, despite the evidence on quality improvement and the reduction of risks and damages. In that sense, for Las Comadres, accompaniment cannot respond to the terms of “a service”, for us it is a political practice, it is the way we recognize ourselves in the search for other forms of existence and social justice.