By: Kirsty Lambert
Within social circles, you’re bound to find at least a few who have had a negative experience - or maybe even a horror story - with contraception. At its best, it feels empowering. At its worst, it can have entirely the opposite effect. If you aren’t already all too familiar with that conversation of venting frustrations over a cup of tea (or maybe something a little stronger), you won’t have to look far to find it.
Back in 2018, many moons ago, a small group of the Buchanan Institute’s newest members were discussing health issues. Of all the important issues bounced about, the one which really stuck was contraception. More specifically, how widespread these conversations were within groups of friends. How many groups of friends sit around having these discussions? Have you? How come something so positive, something which should bring empowerment, can sometimes make us feel so awful and uncomfortable in our own skin? And, of course, why are our public spaces so detached from these experiences? I mean, what can we really do about it... right?
A big part of changing this is the need for it to be talked about freely. CERT was founded on the ideal that contraception should be a much more positive experience than it currently is, and users should have a supportive platform to vocalise what they feel they need. CERT undertook the seemingly endless and somewhat intimidating task of dismantling the stigma around open discussion. Promoting individual empowerment and understanding the far-reaching issues related to contraception so that we can be a part of creating a better future. In essence, we believe in a reality where education is open and informative, healthcare decisions are in the hands of informed recipients, and discussions can be had without fear of judgement.
Following lengthy bouts of research and some exciting opportunities to speak with the likes of contraceptive researchers and the head of NHS Lothian, we set about writing our report. With this came a lot of stress. But it was worth every second. Not only was it an incredibly rewarding process, but the passion we all felt about producing something that could go on to help create positive change only grew as we went on. Writing about contraceptive users’ experiences of having their negative side effects be delegitimised, or the huge percentage (82.2%) of our survey respondents who felt they hadn’t learned enough about contraception in school, made it seem all the more worthwhile. And oh boy, did it feel good to finally hold the finalised, freshly bound report in our hands.
CERT’s next big move was expanding our team; welcoming some similarly passionate people on board. Together, we planned and carried out an event intended to give a platform to those whose experiences had been, in our opinion, sorely missed within medical-centric discussions. Despite a few bake sale stresses and the like, we made it. So many amazing people contributed and made it all possible, not least the engaged people who made their voices known.
Now that the dust has settled, and we’ve adjusted to not having the impending event to mark time for us anymore, CERT is excited and ready to go into its next phase: to bring even more people together in pursuit of reform and empowerment.
Our next steps will involve reflecting on what we’ve already done and using it as a springboard for CERT’s future. Now, we are looking for contraceptive justice and agency for the entire population of Scotland. Having reformed our own structure, we’re ready to take on the challenge with some new faces beside us.
In 2020, we want to make headway in the following areas:
Fundraising and Events
We loved hosting our launch event, and hope to host many more interesting and innovative events as we progress. Our goals in this area include building the necessary funds to take our mission to the next level, and running intra-university events in Scotland to build a name for our organisation and its mission. Although Covid-19 has currently put much of this on hold, we have big plans for 2020-21 - so watch this space!
While we would have loved to delve deeper into these areas from the offset, our limited capacity made this a little bit tricky. But now that we have our grounding and some new faces, it’s our intention to produce a research paper examining which areas are currently being focused on, and from there identifying where further research is needed. This will ultimately shine light on what steps need to be taken to enable the tailoring of contraception to the individual.
Unfortunately, as is the case with many things, stigma can make the open discussion of contraception a real challenge. To help loosen its grip, we plan on producing a research paper into the causes, effects and solutions of this stigma, while simultaneously running a policy and awareness campaign to keep the conversation going. We decided to focus on emergency contraception, because the terminology, process to access, and circumstances in which it becomes necessary arguably produce more stigma than other contraceptive methods.
Surprise, surprise! We have plans for another research paper and campaign pairing for you (we’re nothing if not consistent). This one will focus on further understanding the standard of education within the medical realm, with the ultimate goal of producing guidelines to increase contraceptive literacy, and therein comfortability and agency. If the frontline medical professionals who effectively control access to contraception are not adequately informed, then it limits your options, and worsens the care you receive. Simple as, really.
Something that was brought to our attention in the run-up to the event was the need for trans and non-binary inclusive terminology. This was something that we had previously considered, but our small size meant we couldn’t give it the time and energy this important subject needed. It also drew our attention to broader issues of inclusivity (in areas outside of gender and in things we do other than research).
Marketing and Communications
Last, but by no means least, we hope to continue getting the word out about CERT, and spreading awareness beyond the confines of the University. We are in the process of creating a fully operating website including content from the aforementioned areas, and carrying out a social media marketing strategy to help us meet our goals. We hope this will keep people engaged with our work during the extended summer we seem to be currently in.
Then, the bomb-shell that is the coronavirus hit. Our neatly laid plans and newly assembled team of 28 were scattered to the winds. But rather than pack up and wait until September, we decided that this was a possible opportunity... After all, a lot of our team suddenly found they had more free time than they knew what to do with. We decided to launch 3 new research projects, and put the pre-existing ones on the backburner until things returned to normal a bit. Our teams are currently midway through projects on 1) possible progesterone shortages, 2) the impact of social distancing measures on contraceptive care, and 3) a separate project specifically looking at emergency contraception during Covid-19.
Thank you so much for not abandoning this post (unless you skipped to the end, in which case you are missing out on some jokes that can’t even be classified as jokes because they aren’t really funny). If you have an interest in any of these areas and the wider mission that is contraceptive justice for users across Scotland, we’d love to hear from you! Give us a shout at firstname.lastname@example.org and, of course, spread the word.
Kristy Lambert x
Co-founder of CERT