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8th July 2015

When contraception is a young girl’s way to school

Alima was 15 years old when she travelled from her home to the capital of Ghana, Accra, to save up for wedding crockery.

But life in the city can be risky for young girls like Alima. Working in the markets girls often end up sleeping on the streets where they are in danger of being raped or entering into prostitution. And getting pregnant can turn around a girls’ life from one day to the other – as well as pose serious risks to their health. Fortunately for Alima she knew of a clinic in the city where girls and women can get advice on pregnancy and contraception.

After talking to a nurse at the clinic, Alima decided to get a five-year contraceptive implant. And instead of buying porcelain and household items, she ended up saving her earnings and going back home to enroll in school

For African women in rural areas this access to contraception that Alima was lucky to have is nearly impossible. Hawa is a woman living in a small village in Kenya who has not been able to use contraception because she lives too far from a clinic. She says that she has been struggling to feed her five children and feels that she could have led a been very different if only she had access to contraception.

The usual contraception used in African countries is the IUD, the pill, arm implants, and tubal ligations. Now there is a new solution introduced in some African countries: the Sayana Press. The Sayana Press looks almost like a tiny golf ball on a tee and it is a combined needle and pre-filled plastic bubble with a contraceptive drug. Healthcare workers can inject the drug simply by squeezing the bubble. Since it is single-use it also limits the risks of contracting HIV through shared needles.

According to Faustina Fynn-Nyame who works in the clinic in Accra, contraception is crucial for giving girls and women control over their lives and futures. When girls like Alima have the choice, they have children later in their lives. That makes it possible for them to finish their education, become financially independent and contribute to society. With contraception they can space births further apart and get healthier lives for themselves and their babies.

In western countries women have en enjoyed access to contraception for a much longer time. But even if it is still out of reach to thousands of women in African countries, contraception is gaining a place in the minds of the women and girls who visit the clinics, says Faustina. Perhaps solutions like the Sayana Press will help moving this way.

See how family planning and injectable contraception helped Agnes and other women in Uganda get healthier, happier and fit to start working again.