I stopped going to school when I was in class six. I grew up in an extended family house in Komende village during the War. My life became tough shortly after the death of my father. I lived for a while with my mother who never cared for me as a daughter. I then had to leave and stay with my uncle. His wife, with whom we were staying had a cruel heart and only cared for her own children. I didn’t get on very well with my aunt who wasn’t very supportive to me especially with regards to my education. Instead she used to make me carry out all domestic chores at home like fetching fire wood, water and working on the farm. She never allowed me to go to school but concentrated on getting her own children to attend school.
Later when the war became intense we went to Freetown to stay there. Returning back to the village afterwards, my mother forced me to be initiated into the bondo society (undergoing female genital cutting). I tried to tell her that I wanted to go to school instead of being initiated. The part I find hardest to understand was why my mother told me that she couldn’t afford to pay my school fees but could afford to spend a lot of money on the initiation process. After the initiation I was forced into an early marriage at the age of twelve.
The man who I was forced to marry never appreciated me. I became pregnant the same year and the man left home when I was six months pregnant. I have never set eyes on him again up to this day. I suffered a lot to raise the baby with no support from my mother or any other relatives. Selling wood, potato and cassava leaves were the main sources of income for myself and my child.
There was no way I could continue with schooling without parental support. Later I met another guy who fooled me around and made me believe he could handle my problems. He started well, but then he got me pregnant and ran away to Liberia. I had my second child at the age of eighteen. Life is very hard and quite challenging for us coming from a very poor family.
What challenges do women face in your community?
- Sexual assault and harassment
- Teenage pregnancy
- Gender Based Violence
- Parental or family support
- Lack of finances to help support them on their day to day activities and access to land for farming and agricultural activities
What opportunities I would like to see for your children?
- To be children of substance and contribute meaningful to the development of my country
What I would like leaders to focus on that would impact my life?
- Standardised free medical health services for all children and women
- To provide quality information to inform people of the dangers early marriage and teenage pregnancy
- Micro finance opportunities for women
- HIV & AIDS
- Free Education for girls at all levels and
- Youth employment
TEENAGE PREGNANCY IN SIERRA LEONE
The teenage pregnancy rates in Sierra Leone are high. In a government health survey it was estimated that 34% of women aged 15-19 have either already had a baby or are pregnant. Studies have shown that when girls who become pregnant at this age, their education is interrupted which often leads to reduced earning potential, poor marital outcomes and reduced health outcomes for surviving children.
RESTLESS DEVELOPMENT IN SIERRA LEONE
In Sierra Leone, Restless Development works to help young people access confidential counseling and testing at community clinics and in youth information centres. Between October and December 2011, 1145 young Sierra Leoneans accessed such a service enabling them to make informed decisions about pregnancy and motherhood.