Engaging a Community to Ensure “Every Girl, One Contraceptive”

By: Maureen Odour, Women Deliver Young Leader

Too often, society blames only the girl for getting pregnant. The reality is that adolescent pregnancy is most often not the result of a deliberate choice, but rather the absence of choices, and of circumstances beyond a girl's control. Early pregnancy takes a toll on a girl's health, education and rights. It also prevents her from realizing her potential and adversely impacts the baby. A country's economy is also affected by teenage pregnancies as adolescent mothers are prevented from entering the workforce.

In school adolescent girls aged 13-19 year, from low income families in Muheza District, Northern Tanzania are have seen an increase in the prevalence of early pregnancy, unsafe abortion, and mortality associated with exchanging sex for transportation from the ''Boda Boda'' motorcycle operators, which are used for commuting to and from school. Past research in the Muheza District, has shown that sexually active teens who do not use contraception face a great risk of pregnancy and often underestimate the likelihood of becoming pregnant or causing a pregnancy. Intercourse is often sporadic, unplanned, and unprotected, leaving teens vulnerable to both pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). Despite this, family planning information and services delivery remains inadequate, unfriendly, and in accessible for adolescents.

It is against this backdrop that Service Health and Development for People Living Positively with HIV/AIDS Muheza branch (SHDEPHA+) designed the “Every girl, One Contraceptive” project. This project has been made possible through partnership between SHDEPHA+ and Family Planning 2020 (FP 2020), a global partnership that supports the rights of women and girls to decide freely for themselves whether, when, and how many children they want to have.

The project has effectively recruited and involved Boda Boda operators to champion and promote sexuality education and family planning information within the community. The goal is to make communities become safe places for adolescent girl – places where girls do not become brides nor child mothers. The project identified 30 stakeholders from all sectors within the community including local government and religious leaders and engaged them in our campaign. The project also ensured it is girl-centered, whereby adolescent girls have been trained to be sexual and reproductive health educators both in schools and within the community at large. The project works closely with Ministry of Health Muheza District, through support of the District Medical Officers office. We are very hopeful that community engagement within the project will ensure sustainability and a more efficiency in the project implementation.

Every Girl, One Contraceptive project acknowledges that sexually active teenagers need access to family planning information and services to prevent unintended pregnancy.  These young people also need support and encouragement from their peers, adults, and the media to use contraception effectively and consistently. Improving contraceptive use by sexually active adolescents requires expanding and enhancing existing services so teens are more likely to use them. Teens need confidential, safe, and convenient services. To change social norms around teen contraceptive use, parents must openly discuss responsible and healthy sexual behavior with children, peers must encourage and teach each other about the importance of safe, protected sex, and the media must present positive images of sexuality, including messages about responsible sexual behavior, abstinence, and contraception. Our project aims to help make this possible through engaging the community rather than blaming the girl.

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