Five years ago, when Arnilda Simango was 13, she started dating a boy from her community, outside Xai-Xai City, in Gaza Province in southern Mozambique. A year later she got pregnant, at his insistence, and he left her shortly after the baby was born. AMODEFA’s youth services offered her counselling and advice throughout her pregnancy and became the network through which she made new friends. Today, at the age of 18, she is raising her son, with help from her mother and plans to return to school.
“When I started dating, I thought I wanted a partner who could take care of me and that could maybe fill the void I felt for not having a father. When I started the relationship with my boyfriend, he insisted that he needed a son because all his friends already had one. I had little space to say no because he threatened to date someone else and I was convinced he was the right person for me.
When I got pregnant in 2016, he started behaving strangely. He stopped being affectionate and gave indications that he did not want to be with me anymore. That's when a friend of mine told me that there was a youth center where I could get advice on how to proceed in this situation".
The Adolescent and Youth Friendly Services (SAAJ) center, based at the Patrice Lumumba Urban Health Center, on the outskirts of Xai-Xai, is run by AMODEFA and provides HIV testing and treatment, prenatal and postpartum consultations, and other information and services around sexual health and rights. The center is supported by the Women’s Integrated Sexual Health (WISH2ACTION) programme, led by IPPF.
"One day I walked there and received a lot of advice. As I was already 4 to 5 months pregnant, I was advised to open a prenatal form. They did all the follow-up until I gave birth to my son.”
"Believe me, being a single mother at 14 was a suffocating experience and it could have been worse if I had not been accompanied by [the SAAJ]. I do not know how to thank them. I practically felt alone without knowing what to do, but I had a lot of advice here and made friends with other girls".
Planning for the future
Arnilda dropped out of 7th grade once she became pregnant and helped her mother selling basic goods from a stall in her home. It is from this small business that her mother supports her two children who are still living at home, as well as five grandchildren. Arnilda plans to return to school next year to continue her studies now her son is old enough to stay with his grandmother. Her dream is to be a professional model. Until then she does not want to have another child, so she goes to the SAAJ for family planning purposes.
Arnilda says she walks 50 minutes to the center every three months for the contraceptive injection. "I wanted the implant, but it doesn't settle well with me, so I renew the injection every three months. I do this because I need to continue studying to have a decent job that allows me to support my son. Next year I will go back to school.
"A second child is not in the plans. I still consider myself a minor. Even the first child I only had because at the time I had no one to give me advice and show me the best way. I believed in my ex-boyfriend and today I have this lesson.
Today I can say that I have come to my senses, not only from the experience of being a mother, but from everything I learn here [at the SAAJ]. There is no friend of mine who does not know SAAJ. I always advise them to approach here because I know they will have all kinds of counselling and accompaniment.”