Thursday, March 08, 2018

Let girls be girls...

Today on International Women’s Day I want to be a voice for the many girls, who are yet to become women; those who have already experienced pregnancy. Sierra Leone has the 7th highest adolescent pregnancy rate in the world, with 38% of women aged 20-24 giving birth by the age of 18. This has significant consequences for their own health and that of their baby, as well as vast socioeconomic impact. Children bearing children. This is wrong. 

Sierra Leone has some of the highest maternal, infant and child mortality rates in the world and 40% of maternal deaths are as a result of adolescent pregnancy. Infants born to teenage mothers are at higher risk, with stillbirths and deaths in the first week of life being 50% higher, compared with babies born to 20-29 year olds. 46% of adolescents with no education become pregnant, compared to 22% with secondary education or higher. The third most common cause for school dropout among girls is pregnancy. Education is crucial. For every year a girl remains in primary school her income increases by 10-20% with an extra year of secondary school increasing earnings by 15-25%. These wages are likely to be reinvested into their families, creating better opportunities for their children. Every year of secondary school may reduce child marriage by 5% and for each additional year of girl education, child mortality decreased by 9.5%.

There are many health and gender inequalities that contribute to adolescent pregnancy: poverty, lack of education, gendered social norms, child marriage, traditional practices, and the list goes on. Girls in other countries face similar risks. What is being done about this? Can we do more?

As we stand up for women today, let us also stand up for girls. Let’s educate them and empower them. Let’s provide the needed health and social services for them. Let’s enforce legislation that protects them. As the government in Sierra Leone states: “Let girls be girls, not mothers”. 

Let’s work together to make this happen. Whether you are a government official,  or a teacher, or a nurse, or a social worker, or a stay at home mother, or an aunty, or a grandmother, let’s all play our part. Change policies, provide better services, be a positive role model. Encourage. Empower. Educate. For the girls you have the privilege to interact with, invest in them and raise them up to be strong women.  

#internationalwomensday #letgirlsbegirls #empowergirls #educategirls #endchildmarriage #educationforall #genderequality #healthcareforall #raisestrongwomen #adolescentpregnancy #teenagepregnancy

Note: Data in this post is taken from my end of module project for my Masters in Public Health submitted 28 February 2018.

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~ Act Justly. Love Mercy. Walk Humbly. micah 6:8 ~