We want to introduce you to a girl named, Mercy. We met her through one of our programs in Ghana and her story is a powerful one.
Mercy lost her parents when she was a teenager. She moved in with her elder sister in hopes that she would be able to finish school and pursue her education. But due to financial constraints, Mercy was forced to help her sister trade and sell sugarcane and smoked fish. One day, Mercy met an empathetic family friend who agreed to sponsor her education but her sister was not supportive and kicked Mercy out of the house. As a homeless teenager, she was forced to do menial jobs to survive. While roaming the streets, she met Edem and moved in with him.
Soon after, she became pregnant. Mercy was unaware of what she needed to do or services she needed to access in order to have a safe pregnancy and delivery.
“I was very bitter and sad with my life because my dream of becoming a nurse was shattered.”
To ensure a safe pregnancy and delivery, pregnant girls and women should see a healthcare professional on a regular basis. But Mercy only went twice because she and Edem could not afford many visits to the local health facility. And since Mercy was responsible for all of the household chores: working on the farm, lifting heavy loads and selling on the streets, she didn’t have any time to go either.
Mercy ended up suffering through a very difficult home delivery without the presence of a skilled birth attendant. Culturally, men deem pregnancy and childbirth to be a woman’s issue which meant Edem was not supportive and was unaware of how to help Mercy through the painful experience.
Due to lack of knowledge on the dangers of pregnancy and childbirth, many women in Ghana often prefer to deliver at home, often without the presence of a skilled birth attendant and carry out hard labour throughout their pregnancy. As key decision-makers in homes, men have generally not been involved in trying to make pregnancy and childbirth safer.
“My first pregnancy and labour was a difficult one. I worked late into my pregnancy and my boyfriend never permitted or encouraged me to go to the clinic to receive care,” says Mercy.
Mercy is one of millions of girls who have a similar experience. 70,000 adolescent girls die each year because of complications of pregnancy and childbirth.
Working to empower adolescent girls
Too many girls, women and children are denied their right to live a healthy life. This is why we are working to change the birth story.
To date, our project in Ghana has supported:
- The formation of 120 Adolescent Clubs*, made up of 30 members (boys and girls) each, in 120 communities.
- Adolescent education and empowerment – adolescents are mentored by trained youth facilitators on a range of life-skills, their rights and encouraged to reach out to their peers who are school drop-outs to get back in the classroom, and those without a formal education to learn a vocation. This way adolescents gradually become leaders as they themselves are being mentored.
- Adolescents are part of village savings groups and are provided the opportunity to train in financial management and develop entrepreneurial skills.
- Better access to healthcare services
*Adolescent Clubs are established as safe spaces for boys and girls to share their stories and learn more about issues of reproductive health, gender based violence and gender equality.
After having their baby, Mercy and Edem returned to their village where Plan International programs had been set up and Mercy participated in adolescent training. She and a colleague formed two clubs in their community after being trained.
“Almost 6 of my peers are back to school. At the moment no adolescent is pregnant in the community,” says Mercy.
“I am so thankful for Plan International’s project, bringing change to my community. I am no longer afraid of voicing my opinion and no longer have to do all of the household chores. Thanks to the Adolescent Club, I am now a changed adolescent and enjoying my life,” says Mercy.
Inspiring a community to come together
We work to address gender inequality that is the root cause of many issues girls and women face around the world. In order to improve the conditions of adolescent girls and women in any community, we recognize that we must improve their social status. And the only way to achieve gender equality is to engage everyone in the community especially men, older members of families and community leaders.
Structures like Daddies’ Clubs, Mother Support Groups and the Grannies Clubs are playing a very important role in ensuring that teenage pregnancy is reduced and girls’ rights are realized. They are organic community groups where members discuss and learn about issues of reproductive health, gender equality and human rights.
Mercy is now an adolescent leader as well as a member of the Village Savings and Loans Association in her community. Mercy went in for family planning services to prevent another pregnancy until she is done with her skill development training in sewing.
Edem is now a community transport driver and has joined a Daddies Club to learn more about reproductive health and how he can help break down gender stereotypes in his community. “I have seen a positive change in Edem since we motivated him to join the Daddies’ Club. He has now started to support his partner with household chores,” says Mawuli, friend and fellow Daddies’ Club member.
Breaking the cycle by changing the story
Mercy and Edem are now better informed and are on the path to a brighter future. Mercy is determined to finish learning her trade and start her own business. Together, we can change the birth story and not only save lives but ensure they are healthy and thriving!
Sign your name to ensure a continued investment by Government of Canada in transformative programming that leverages the power of young people like Mercy and Edem to change their story.
I stand with Canada to change the birth story because I believe that every adolescent girl, woman and child has the right to be healthy and to live a life free of discrimination.