I am sure Joan Dunlop would have loved to know what I was doing last week in Mozambique: a press briefing on unsafe abortion, with the Mozambican Network for Sexual and Reproductive Rights and Health. A national prize for best story on abortion will be awarded in October, when the Mozambican Parliament will discuss decriminalizing abortion and getting rid of the restrictive laws from 1886.
Joan firmly believed that every woman in the world ought to have the same sexual and reproductive rights as women in the North. And that in the fight to access and then to retain those rights, we must be smart and strategic, spirited and reasonable, indefatigable and focused, and use accurate data. She had all these qualities, and more. She was a remarkable woman, a brilliant strategist, and a generous mentor – with a wicked sense of humor.
At the 1985 UN Women Conference in Nairobi, IWHC held a social event. As Joan welcomed guests, a swarm of anti-abortion activists strode, like locusts or marching ants, and ate all the untouched food in literally three minutes, then left. We were stunned. Joan, as usual, sailed through the incident with poise and humor.
Her drive for global equal access to sexual and reproductive rights, health and justice resonates today as it did in 1985. In every step we take towards this goal, her spirit lives on.
Currently a Knight Health Fellow in Mozambique, Mercedes Sayagues is a feminist journalist from Uruguay who worked with Joan and IWHC in the mid-1980s.