I’m Taking Control of My Health & Future

When Nadjoari married at 14, she was a child. Her own mother agreed.

“When I got married, my mom wouldn’t explain pregnancy to me because she considered it a conversation for adults.”

She didn’t want to marry, but she was left with no choice: “My parents pushed me into it. I could not refuse.”

Five years later, Nadjoari lives with her husband, her co-wife, and their two small children in a small village in Burkina Faso.

Nadjoari’s New Life

Every girl deserves a childhood. Nadjoari’s was stolen from her.

She is not alone. Young girls in her community typically marry at 13 or 14 years old. In Burkina Faso, 52% of women are married by 18 years old. And only 6% of women aged 15-19 use contraception.

When a girl is robbed of her childhood, what happens to her future?

Nadjoari was just entering adolescence, enjoying time at school with her friends and playing at home with her four siblings. Now, she wakes up every morning, sweeps the house, travels to find water and wood. Returning home, she washes the children and begins preparing the evening meal.

Child brides are often disempowered, isolated, and virtually powerless in their relationships with their husbands. Most are forced to abandon their homes and the comfort of their own family, their education, and their friends. The results can be devastating.

They are at particular risk of bearing children before they are ready—one of the leading causes of death of 15 to 19 year old girls in Africa.

This group falls through the cracks. They are left out of services focused on children, excluded from programs that prevent early marriage, but they are not old enough to be considered an adult.

Young girls like Nadjoari need access to accurate information and high quality sexual and reproductive health care, so they can take back control of their lives.

No More Stolen Futures

Nadjoari wanted better—she wanted more for her future.

So, in 2014, she joined a group of young married women like herself. The group meets two times a month. In their safe space, they learn how to address domestic violence and the importance of healthy communication with their partners. Side by side, they discover the power of contraception.

The support groups are led by a Pathfinder-trained peer educator as part of an innovative partnership with local governments and communities in Burkina Faso, Guinea, and Niger to address the urgent health needs of married girls and young women.

Through one of the first programs of its kind targeting first-time parents and young married women in West Africa, young people are gaining self-confidence, accessing contraception, and getting the support of their communities to use it.

Nadjoari’s baby girl squirms in her arms as she says, “The group taught me that if you just gave birth, if you have a new baby, you don’t have to get pregnant again right away.”

Two years—that’s how long Nadjoari wants to wait before getting pregnant again.

Grounded in lessons from the support group, Nadjoari began to chart her own course. She approached her husband about contraception, and with his blessing, opted for an injectable. It’s easier to manage than the oral pill, she says.

“Family planning is helping my health, my child’s health, my whole family. Even my husband is happy.”

Nadjoari is a woman who dares. Joining the support group—and learning how to take control of her family planning choices—make her leader in her community. She knows that she has the power to decide her future. “When it comes to my health, I decide for myself.”

Every girl deserves the same choice.

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