Sherifa back to school and in class
Sherifa back to school and in class

“I will defeat all odds to continue my education after giving birth” says Sharifa a pregnant adolescent who was featured in a documentary produced in 2013 during the national lunch of SWOP which expounded Motherhood in Childhood as a huge global problem, especially in developing countries where 20,000 girls below age 18 give birth annually and nine in 10 of these births occur within marriage or a union.

Sherifa back to school and in class
Sherifa back to school and in class

The documentary produced by Creative Storm Networks as part of the Maternal Health Channel Television Series with support from UNFPA, highlights the issue of adolescent pregnancy with its consequences on the health, educational attainment, employment, general well-being and rights of girls affected in Ghana.

Sharifa was six month pregnant when her story was headlined in the documentary. She spoke candidly about her experiences that highlighted many challenges, including her low level of awareness about sexual and reproductive health issues. When asked by the film crew whether she ever protected herself during sexual intercourse with her boyfriend, Sharifa answered in the negative. When asked how she got to know she was pregnant, she had this to say:

“At the time, I did not know I was pregnant. I had stomach aches and for two months I was not menstruating. I told my sister and she told my aunt. She said I was pregnant but did not want to tell the truth. But I did not believe I was pregnant but then it all became visible”

Sharifa dreamt of becoming a nurse but all plans were on hold. She had to help her aunty sell vegetables in the local market. Her aunty was very disappointed about Sharifa getting pregnant and dropping out of school and commented:

IMG_4007“15 years, how can you go and get pregnant. You got pregnant, you did not even know. Many of her friends are also pregnant; some, even younger than her. You will feel pity for some of them. The lesson here is that mothers really care for their daughters. But these kids really don’t listen. They are stubborn. I don’t want this to be the end of her education. Without education, life can be very difficult. I will help her go back to school”
The social consequences of teenage pregnancy are profound, not to mention the impact on families and the girls themselves. Occasionally, Sharifa would go to her former school compound to reflect on her predicament. She goes when the school is closed and that gave her hope to continue her education after giving birth.

Her determination was stronger when she realised that the boy who made her pregnant and who is 18 years was still in school. Sharifa hardly sees the father of her unborn child and there was no support from him or his family.

The most emotional moment was when the film crew met Sharifa and her biological mother. Her mother’s disappointment was deep with these comments:

“I am not pleased because I didn’t go to school. Also, her father never cared for her. I gave birth very early so I didn’t want her to follow my footsteps. If my life is difficult, why join me for both of us to suffer and lose out? I don’t have anything to say. But, you have really disappointed me. Sherifa! You have really disappointed me. At your age, a baby is more important than school?”

UNFPA Ghana, through Creative Storm Networks visited Sharifa after two years to gather information on what happened to her after delivery. She joyously narrated her story of going back to school. Sharifa’s day according to her, starts at dawn. Her aunt, who helps her with the baby while she is away in school, sells food in the market.

Sharifa says she had to combine assisting her aunt with the preparation of the “kenkey” she sells and nurturing of Suleiman her baby boy before going to school every morning. Sharifa did not go back to her former school. She went far away from her community so as to hide her identity. The distance to the school coupled with the household chores makes her late and exhausted every day but she is determined to make it this time. She says the head teacher and a few others were aware of her plight and support her.

While Sharifa’s story may be one of too many; it is time to make teenage pregnancy a thing of the past. Let us ensure that no young girl will have to choose between education and pregnancy. Let us ensure that age-appropriate comprehensive sexuality education, information and services are made available to all young people. UNFPA is committed to working with the government, gatekeepers and all our partners to ensure that every young person’s potential is fulfilled.

First published in the UNFPA Newsletter Volume No2, December 2015 page 12 and 13 titled “I Will Defeat All The Odds To Continue My Education After Giving Birth”.

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