Nadjoari Bahanla

Pressured to marry at 14, Nadjoari wanted a choice about pregnancy

At 14, Nadjaori was old enough to become a wife, but too young to talk about reproduction. That’s what her family believed.

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

Nadjoari didn’t want to marry, but had 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.

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.

Every girl deserves a childhood. Nadjoari’s ended too soon.

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 isolated and virtually powerless in their relationships with their husbands. Most are forced to abandon their education, their homes, the comfort of their own family, 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. Through your support for Pathfinder, you are making sure they get it.

No More Stolen Futures

So in 2014, she joined a group of young married women like herself. The group meets two times a month. Together, 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.

Nadjoari’s support group is 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.

“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.”

Nadjoari’s baby girl squirms in her arms. “Two years,” Nadjoari says. That’s how long she wants to wait before getting pregnant again.

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

As a girl, Nadjoari didn’t have a choice. Today, she 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. And other girls are watching.

“When it comes to my health, now I decide for myself.”

Support from people like you has helped millions of women and girls access the contraception they want. Make a gift to Pathfinder today and help make sure every woman, everywhere can choose whether and when to have children.

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