Richard Ryaganda – Communications Lead
Debora Kimaro – M & E Manager
Kilosa is among the districts in the Morogoro region with a high rate of teenage pregnancy and child marriage.
Mariam, 22 years old, is a victim of both teenage pregnancy and child marriage. Dropped out of school at age 17 at form three after she was impregnated by a young villager in Mhenda, the village she is from.
Mariam says she got pregnant at the first encounter in sexual activities not knowing what it meant and what could be the consequences. Due to stigma and negative social norms about pregnancy in Kilosa, she was forced to drop out of school and was rejected by the father of her unborn child.
“When I was in form three, I was involved in some peer groups and because I wasn’t informed about sexual reproductive health, I found myself pregnant and was sent back home. When my pregnancy was seven (7) months old, my parents reached out to my child’s father informing him about the pregnancy. The first challenge that I encountered was the rejection of the pregnancy followed by his disappearance because he run away,” she explains.
“I continued looking for this man because I had not known any other man than him and I was undoubtedly sure of him being the father of my child, when I was about two months from delivery, his parents talked to him and he accepted the pregnancy and took me with him to his parents’ place. We started raising the child in hardships still because I had no knowledge about sexual reproductive health and thus when my child was a year older and a few months, I got another pregnancy.”
When trying to figure out what she should do with the second early pregnancy, Mariam met a community member who convinced her to take abortion pills, which led to the termination of the pregnancy. Again, when her child reached three years old, she found herself with another pregnancy of baby (the baby she was nursing while talking to us).
“During the three months of my third pregnancy, one elder woman came with the news that there is a health NGO named UMATI visiting our village, let us meet at Village Executive Officer’s office. I was able to attend that meeting and to be honest, after attending that sexual reproductive health education session, my life has never been the same. After I gave birth to my second born at Kilosa hospital I was able to request family planning counseling and method. Mariam says she opted for an implant of five (5) years, showing a palm where it is located, I use condoms and my child is healthy and doing well as you can see. Sexual reproductive health education has uplifted me economically, health-wise, and boasted my intelligence.” Mariam narrates.
Mariam further says. at first, when she informed her husband about the calling at the village’s office, he did not permit her to go. She, therefore, had to take it upon herself to leave the house and go to the village office. The good thing about the session was that they were given leaflets after the session which she took and left at the table as went to the well to fetch water.
When the husband came back, he read the leaflets and asked, “Is this what you went for?” Mariam said yes, he continued to read and finally said,” these people are insane, where were they to give us this kind of education and information earlier, look at how young I am and already have a child t and a pregnant woman, you should go and abort that pregnancy.” Mariam said, “now am not ready to do abortion, I wouldn’t know what could happen to me if I do plus it is risky.”
She was invited again to attend another sexual reproductive health seminar in Manyovu village, this one was comprehensive and accompanied by leaflets as well, which she took with her back home. The husband was impressed with the SRH information on the materials and told his wife that “After you give birth, please go and take a family planning method because am currently economically unstable, I cannot afford to earn income for a living and yet earn more for children’s welfare.”
Mariam comments that “during the second pregnancy, her husband had told her to return to her parents until she gives birth as a trick to get rid of her. But due to this education, her husband has stabilized psychologically and started doing some business and was able to get employment, as we speak, he is in Mbeya working at a certain company and he sends money every time and takes care of the family, we both live happily and observe our health.”
Through the Partnership for Social Accountability project led by UMATI under the support of ACTION AID Tanzania, Mariam was able to get both sexual reproductive health education and entrepreneurship which has enabled her and her husband to have a planned family and she is now doing farming and selling women clothes. “Am an entrepreneur now, loaning women clothes and save the profits for farming, recently I harvested 6000 watermelons worth one million, five hundred shillings and have about 5000 more watermelons waiting for the market. Also, I have just rented the tractor for my next farming in a few days to come,” added Mariam.
According to Mariam, life has changed positively now that she can afford to pay rent, she lives with her two children and takes her first child to school, and meet all financial needs. She is hopeful and grateful for the education and information that touched her life in a manner she cannot explain.
Mariam is a champion not only to her peers, but she goes beyond and educates elders as well both male and female. She has shared the sexual reproductive education with many people including her mother-in-law who also talked to her husband that she wants to check her health status. The husband agreed to his wife’s request and promised to escort his wife to Mikumi hospital for a full body checkup including STIs, cervical cancer, and HIV/AIDS so that they can live a happy life.