“It’s important to teach girls about abortion”

Youth volunteer

For Jennipher, who lives in a village outside of Lilongwe, unintended pregnancies amongst young women and girls like her are an everyday reality. 
 
“Girls often speak to me about these issues because they know I come to the Youth Life Centre and that I know a lot about these issues,” explains Jennipher, who wears a baggy white t-shirt and big hoop earrings. 
 
“They are happy to talk to me about these issues because I’m young and also a girl. It’s hard for girls to talk about these issues to their families because they might not believe them,” says Jennipher, who is a Youth Action Movement (YAM) volunteer in her local area, Dowa. “It’s important to teach girls about abortion so they know how to take care of themselves and stop risking their lives,” she adds. 

Teaching peers how to avoid unwanted pregnancy 

Off the top of her head, Jennipher can think of two close friends who have experienced unwanted pregnancies at a young age. One was just 14 when she fell pregnant and, desperate, had an unsafe abortion. “There was a lot of blood. I helped her by taking her here [to the Youth Life Centre] for treatment. Now she’s quite fine and back at school after recovering,” says Jennipher. 
 
Another friend was 18 when she got pregnant, but ended up keeping her baby. Jennipher says she encouraged her friend to get help at the center “so she could learn a lot of things and maybe get contraception, so she can go back to school again and have a bright future.” 
 
Two years on, her friend is back at school and her mother takes care of the baby while she is studying. “She even joined the Youth Action Movement, so we are together here,” smiles Jennipher. 

Youth volunteers
Jennipher with her friend Sellah, also a volunteer, at the Youth Life Center in Dowa. 

Passionate about education 

These experiences have made Jennipher passionate about educating young women and girls in her community about contraception, with the aim of keeping them safe, healthy, and in school. 
 
As a YAM volunteer she also gets approached by girls who have experienced sexual abuse, often within the family. Another friend of Jennipher’s told her that her sister’s husband wanted to sleep with her.  
 
“In these cases, sometimes the girls choose to be silent for fear that the breadwinner might be arrested and then the family will suffer,” she explains. But with a well-informed peer like Jennipher to confide in, her friend was advised to go to the authorities and to the center for guidance. 
 
Looking to the future, Jennipher says she wants to have two or three children. “That would be enough!” She laughs. She also plans to make a career out of her skill for caring for others. “I want to be a secondary teacher or a nurse. I want to help people.”