Let’s talk about sex: why education about sex and contraception is vital to young women

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23 Dec 2013

63% of Tanzanian adolescents who are in a relationship are sexually active, but denied access to sex education and contraception, forcing them to navigate a difficult path.

Conservative cultural beliefs in Tanzania mean that pregnancy among unmarried girls is often considered a disgrace to the whole family. Yet young people encounter judgement and an unwillingness to be treated when they visit clinics to access family planning services.

This can be particularly damaging to young women’s education – around 8,000 girls dropped out of Tanzanian schools due to pregnancy in 2011 alone.

Monica's story

In trying to avoid this fate, young women such as 16 year old Monica, who we met when she visited Marie Stopes Tanzania (MST), put their own lives at risk.

Monica is from the village of Sumbawanga in the Tanga region of Tanzania and is the oldest of four children. Her ambition was to finish school and become an engineer, but her plans were suddenly put on hold earlier this year when she found out she was pregnant. Desperate to complete her education and unsure of who to turn to, Monica underwent an abortion in secret at her boyfriend’s house.

She soon began to bleed heavily. Days afterwards Monica was still bleeding and was so weak she was forced to tell her mother what had happened. Sadly, Monica’s disclosure was met with anger and she was beaten so badly by her mother that she lost consciousness.

Thankfully Monica was taken in and looked after by her boyfriend’s family. She was advised by her aunt to visit the MST outreach team at the Pongwe health centre, where she was referred for post-abortion care services and offered counselling about contraception. Monica has now decided to have an implant fitted to avoid any further unplanned pregnancies.

Monica became pregnant due to a lack of education about sex and contraception and is now back at school and on track to complete her studies. However the experience has been painful and bitter. Not only has she had to recover from unsafe abortion, she has had to deal with the stigma and estrangement from her family, who refuse to have her live with them.

“Had I known how to prevent myself from getting pregnant I would not be fighting with my mother right now. I am so ashamed of my acts and I wish my mama would forgive me right now. I am having a very hard time”.

Around the world Marie Stopes International is working hard to reduce unsafe abortion and the harm that it causes. In Tanzania last year, we provided 610,955 people with a modern method of contraception which averted an estimated 33,432 unsafe abortions.

We are committed to providing contraception for women and girls who wouldn’t have access to these services otherwise. By doing this we can prevent more girls from having to experience the pain and suffering that Monica has.

News Source : Let’s talk about sex: why education about sex and contraception is vital to young women

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