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A selection of stories from across the Federation

albania cervical cancer
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Stories about our global efforts to eliminate cervical cancer

From Nigeria to Bermuda, and Albania to Indonesia, our member associations are dedicated to preventing, treating, and ultimately eliminating cervical cancer. 
Aminata Sonogo in school
story

| 08 January 2021

"Girls have to know their rights"

Aminata Sonogo listened intently to the group of young volunteers as they explained different types of contraception, and raised her hand with questions. Sitting at a wooden school desk at 22, Aminata is older than most of her classmates, but she shrugs off the looks and comments. She has fought hard to be here. Aminata is studying in Bamako, the capital of Mali. Just a quarter of Malian girls complete secondary school, according to UNICEF. But even if she will graduate later than most, Aminata is conscious of how far she has come. “I wanted to go to high school but I needed to pass some exams to get here. In the end, it took me three years,” she said. At the start of her final year of collège, or middle school, Aminata got pregnant. She is far from alone: 38% of Malian girls will be pregnant or a mother by the age of 18. Abortion is illegal in Mali except in cases of rape, incest or danger to the mother’s life, and even then it is difficult to obtain, according to medical professionals. Determined to take control of her life “I felt a lot of stigma from my classmates and even my teachers. I tried to ignore them and carry on going to school and studying. But I gave birth to my daughter just before my exams, so I couldn’t take them.” Aminata went through her pregnancy with little support, as the father of her daughter, Fatoumata, distanced himself from her after arguments about their situation. “I have had some problems with the father of the baby. We fought a lot and I didn’t see him for most of the pregnancy, right until the birth,” she recalled. The first year of her daughter’s life was a blur of doctors’ appointments, as Fatoumata was often ill. It seemed Aminata’s chances of finishing school were slipping away. But gradually her family began to take a more active role in caring for her daughter, and she began demanding more help from Fatoumata’s father too. She went back to school in the autumn, 18 months after Fatoumata’s birth and with more determination than ever. She no longer had time to hang out with friends after school, but attended classes, took care of her daughter and then studied more. At the end of the academic year, it paid off. “I did it. I passed my exams and now I am in high school,” Aminata said, smiling and relaxing her shoulders.  "Family planning protects girls" Aminata’s next goal is her high school diploma, and obtaining it while trying to navigate the difficult world of relationships and sex. “It’s something you can talk about with your close friends. I would be too ashamed to talk about this with my parents,” she said. She is guided by visits from the young volunteers of the Association Malienne pour la Protection et Promotion de la Famille (AMPPF), and shares her own story with classmates who she sees at risk. “The guys come up to you and tell you that you are beautiful, but if you don’t want to sleep with them they will rape you. That’s the choice. You can accept or you can refuse and they will rape you anyway,” she said. “Girls have to know their rights”. After listening to the volunteers talk about all the different options for contraception, she is reviewing her own choices. “Family planning protects girls,” Aminata said. “It means we can protect ourselves from pregnancies that we don’t want”.

Aminata Sonogo in school
story

| 03 February 2023

"Girls have to know their rights"

Aminata Sonogo listened intently to the group of young volunteers as they explained different types of contraception, and raised her hand with questions. Sitting at a wooden school desk at 22, Aminata is older than most of her classmates, but she shrugs off the looks and comments. She has fought hard to be here. Aminata is studying in Bamako, the capital of Mali. Just a quarter of Malian girls complete secondary school, according to UNICEF. But even if she will graduate later than most, Aminata is conscious of how far she has come. “I wanted to go to high school but I needed to pass some exams to get here. In the end, it took me three years,” she said. At the start of her final year of collège, or middle school, Aminata got pregnant. She is far from alone: 38% of Malian girls will be pregnant or a mother by the age of 18. Abortion is illegal in Mali except in cases of rape, incest or danger to the mother’s life, and even then it is difficult to obtain, according to medical professionals. Determined to take control of her life “I felt a lot of stigma from my classmates and even my teachers. I tried to ignore them and carry on going to school and studying. But I gave birth to my daughter just before my exams, so I couldn’t take them.” Aminata went through her pregnancy with little support, as the father of her daughter, Fatoumata, distanced himself from her after arguments about their situation. “I have had some problems with the father of the baby. We fought a lot and I didn’t see him for most of the pregnancy, right until the birth,” she recalled. The first year of her daughter’s life was a blur of doctors’ appointments, as Fatoumata was often ill. It seemed Aminata’s chances of finishing school were slipping away. But gradually her family began to take a more active role in caring for her daughter, and she began demanding more help from Fatoumata’s father too. She went back to school in the autumn, 18 months after Fatoumata’s birth and with more determination than ever. She no longer had time to hang out with friends after school, but attended classes, took care of her daughter and then studied more. At the end of the academic year, it paid off. “I did it. I passed my exams and now I am in high school,” Aminata said, smiling and relaxing her shoulders.  "Family planning protects girls" Aminata’s next goal is her high school diploma, and obtaining it while trying to navigate the difficult world of relationships and sex. “It’s something you can talk about with your close friends. I would be too ashamed to talk about this with my parents,” she said. She is guided by visits from the young volunteers of the Association Malienne pour la Protection et Promotion de la Famille (AMPPF), and shares her own story with classmates who she sees at risk. “The guys come up to you and tell you that you are beautiful, but if you don’t want to sleep with them they will rape you. That’s the choice. You can accept or you can refuse and they will rape you anyway,” she said. “Girls have to know their rights”. After listening to the volunteers talk about all the different options for contraception, she is reviewing her own choices. “Family planning protects girls,” Aminata said. “It means we can protect ourselves from pregnancies that we don’t want”.

Fatoumata Yehiya Maiga
story

| 08 January 2021

"The movement helps girls to know their rights and their bodies"

My name is Fatoumata Yehiya Maiga. I’m 23-years-old, and I’m an IT specialist. I joined the Youth Action Movement at the end of 2018. The head of the movement in Mali is a friend of mine, and I met her before I knew she was the president. She invited me to their events and over time persuaded me to join. I watched them raising awareness about sexual and reproductive health, using sketches and speeches. I learnt a lot. Overcoming taboos I went home and talked about what I had seen and learnt with my family. In Africa, and even more so in the village where I come from in Gao, northern Mali, people don’t talk about these things. I wanted to take my sisters to the events, but every time I spoke about them my relatives would just say it was to teach girls to have sex, and that it’s taboo. That’s not what I believe. I think the movement helps girls, most of all, to know their sexual rights, their bodies, what to do and what not to do to stay healthy and safe. They don’t understand this concept. My family would say it was just a smokescreen to convince girls to get involved in something dirty.  I have had to tell my younger cousins about their periods, for example, when they came from the village to live in the city. One of my cousins was so scared, and told me she was bleeding from her vagina and didn’t know why. We talk about managing periods in the Youth Action Movement, as well as how to manage cramps and feel better. The devastating impact of FGM But there was a much more important reason for me to join the movement. My parents are educated, so me and my sisters were never cut. I learned about female genital mutilation at a conference I attended in 2016. I didn’t know that there were different types of severity and ways that girls could be cut. I hadn’t understood quite how dangerous this practice is. Then, two years ago, I lost my friend Aïssata. She got married young, at 17. She struggled to conceive until she was 23. The day she gave birth, there were complications and she died. The doctors said that the excision was botched and that’s what killed her. From that day on, I decided I needed to teach all the girls in my community about how harmful this practice is for their health. I was so horrified by the way she died. Normally, girls in Mali are cut when they are three or four years old, though for some it’s done at birth. When they are older and get pregnant, I know they face the same challenges as every woman does giving birth, but they also live with the dangerous consequences of this unhealthy practice.  The importance of talking openly  The problem lies with the families. I want us, as a movement, to talk with the parents and explain to them how they can contribute to their children’s sexual health. I wish it were no longer a taboo between parents and their girls. But if we talk in such direct terms, they only see disobedience, and say that we are encouraging promiscuity. We need to talk to teenagers because they are already parents in many cases. They are the ones who decide to go through with cutting their daughters, or not. A lot of Mali is hard to reach though. We need travelling groups to go to those isolated rural areas and talk to people about sexual health. Pregnancy is the girl’s decision, and girls have a right to be healthy, and to choose their future.

Fatoumata Yehiya Maiga
story

| 03 February 2023

"The movement helps girls to know their rights and their bodies"

My name is Fatoumata Yehiya Maiga. I’m 23-years-old, and I’m an IT specialist. I joined the Youth Action Movement at the end of 2018. The head of the movement in Mali is a friend of mine, and I met her before I knew she was the president. She invited me to their events and over time persuaded me to join. I watched them raising awareness about sexual and reproductive health, using sketches and speeches. I learnt a lot. Overcoming taboos I went home and talked about what I had seen and learnt with my family. In Africa, and even more so in the village where I come from in Gao, northern Mali, people don’t talk about these things. I wanted to take my sisters to the events, but every time I spoke about them my relatives would just say it was to teach girls to have sex, and that it’s taboo. That’s not what I believe. I think the movement helps girls, most of all, to know their sexual rights, their bodies, what to do and what not to do to stay healthy and safe. They don’t understand this concept. My family would say it was just a smokescreen to convince girls to get involved in something dirty.  I have had to tell my younger cousins about their periods, for example, when they came from the village to live in the city. One of my cousins was so scared, and told me she was bleeding from her vagina and didn’t know why. We talk about managing periods in the Youth Action Movement, as well as how to manage cramps and feel better. The devastating impact of FGM But there was a much more important reason for me to join the movement. My parents are educated, so me and my sisters were never cut. I learned about female genital mutilation at a conference I attended in 2016. I didn’t know that there were different types of severity and ways that girls could be cut. I hadn’t understood quite how dangerous this practice is. Then, two years ago, I lost my friend Aïssata. She got married young, at 17. She struggled to conceive until she was 23. The day she gave birth, there were complications and she died. The doctors said that the excision was botched and that’s what killed her. From that day on, I decided I needed to teach all the girls in my community about how harmful this practice is for their health. I was so horrified by the way she died. Normally, girls in Mali are cut when they are three or four years old, though for some it’s done at birth. When they are older and get pregnant, I know they face the same challenges as every woman does giving birth, but they also live with the dangerous consequences of this unhealthy practice.  The importance of talking openly  The problem lies with the families. I want us, as a movement, to talk with the parents and explain to them how they can contribute to their children’s sexual health. I wish it were no longer a taboo between parents and their girls. But if we talk in such direct terms, they only see disobedience, and say that we are encouraging promiscuity. We need to talk to teenagers because they are already parents in many cases. They are the ones who decide to go through with cutting their daughters, or not. A lot of Mali is hard to reach though. We need travelling groups to go to those isolated rural areas and talk to people about sexual health. Pregnancy is the girl’s decision, and girls have a right to be healthy, and to choose their future.

Aminata Sonogo in school
story

| 08 January 2021

"Girls have to know their rights"

Aminata Sonogo listened intently to the group of young volunteers as they explained different types of contraception, and raised her hand with questions. Sitting at a wooden school desk at 22, Aminata is older than most of her classmates, but she shrugs off the looks and comments. She has fought hard to be here. Aminata is studying in Bamako, the capital of Mali. Just a quarter of Malian girls complete secondary school, according to UNICEF. But even if she will graduate later than most, Aminata is conscious of how far she has come. “I wanted to go to high school but I needed to pass some exams to get here. In the end, it took me three years,” she said. At the start of her final year of collège, or middle school, Aminata got pregnant. She is far from alone: 38% of Malian girls will be pregnant or a mother by the age of 18. Abortion is illegal in Mali except in cases of rape, incest or danger to the mother’s life, and even then it is difficult to obtain, according to medical professionals. Determined to take control of her life “I felt a lot of stigma from my classmates and even my teachers. I tried to ignore them and carry on going to school and studying. But I gave birth to my daughter just before my exams, so I couldn’t take them.” Aminata went through her pregnancy with little support, as the father of her daughter, Fatoumata, distanced himself from her after arguments about their situation. “I have had some problems with the father of the baby. We fought a lot and I didn’t see him for most of the pregnancy, right until the birth,” she recalled. The first year of her daughter’s life was a blur of doctors’ appointments, as Fatoumata was often ill. It seemed Aminata’s chances of finishing school were slipping away. But gradually her family began to take a more active role in caring for her daughter, and she began demanding more help from Fatoumata’s father too. She went back to school in the autumn, 18 months after Fatoumata’s birth and with more determination than ever. She no longer had time to hang out with friends after school, but attended classes, took care of her daughter and then studied more. At the end of the academic year, it paid off. “I did it. I passed my exams and now I am in high school,” Aminata said, smiling and relaxing her shoulders.  "Family planning protects girls" Aminata’s next goal is her high school diploma, and obtaining it while trying to navigate the difficult world of relationships and sex. “It’s something you can talk about with your close friends. I would be too ashamed to talk about this with my parents,” she said. She is guided by visits from the young volunteers of the Association Malienne pour la Protection et Promotion de la Famille (AMPPF), and shares her own story with classmates who she sees at risk. “The guys come up to you and tell you that you are beautiful, but if you don’t want to sleep with them they will rape you. That’s the choice. You can accept or you can refuse and they will rape you anyway,” she said. “Girls have to know their rights”. After listening to the volunteers talk about all the different options for contraception, she is reviewing her own choices. “Family planning protects girls,” Aminata said. “It means we can protect ourselves from pregnancies that we don’t want”.

Aminata Sonogo in school
story

| 03 February 2023

"Girls have to know their rights"

Aminata Sonogo listened intently to the group of young volunteers as they explained different types of contraception, and raised her hand with questions. Sitting at a wooden school desk at 22, Aminata is older than most of her classmates, but she shrugs off the looks and comments. She has fought hard to be here. Aminata is studying in Bamako, the capital of Mali. Just a quarter of Malian girls complete secondary school, according to UNICEF. But even if she will graduate later than most, Aminata is conscious of how far she has come. “I wanted to go to high school but I needed to pass some exams to get here. In the end, it took me three years,” she said. At the start of her final year of collège, or middle school, Aminata got pregnant. She is far from alone: 38% of Malian girls will be pregnant or a mother by the age of 18. Abortion is illegal in Mali except in cases of rape, incest or danger to the mother’s life, and even then it is difficult to obtain, according to medical professionals. Determined to take control of her life “I felt a lot of stigma from my classmates and even my teachers. I tried to ignore them and carry on going to school and studying. But I gave birth to my daughter just before my exams, so I couldn’t take them.” Aminata went through her pregnancy with little support, as the father of her daughter, Fatoumata, distanced himself from her after arguments about their situation. “I have had some problems with the father of the baby. We fought a lot and I didn’t see him for most of the pregnancy, right until the birth,” she recalled. The first year of her daughter’s life was a blur of doctors’ appointments, as Fatoumata was often ill. It seemed Aminata’s chances of finishing school were slipping away. But gradually her family began to take a more active role in caring for her daughter, and she began demanding more help from Fatoumata’s father too. She went back to school in the autumn, 18 months after Fatoumata’s birth and with more determination than ever. She no longer had time to hang out with friends after school, but attended classes, took care of her daughter and then studied more. At the end of the academic year, it paid off. “I did it. I passed my exams and now I am in high school,” Aminata said, smiling and relaxing her shoulders.  "Family planning protects girls" Aminata’s next goal is her high school diploma, and obtaining it while trying to navigate the difficult world of relationships and sex. “It’s something you can talk about with your close friends. I would be too ashamed to talk about this with my parents,” she said. She is guided by visits from the young volunteers of the Association Malienne pour la Protection et Promotion de la Famille (AMPPF), and shares her own story with classmates who she sees at risk. “The guys come up to you and tell you that you are beautiful, but if you don’t want to sleep with them they will rape you. That’s the choice. You can accept or you can refuse and they will rape you anyway,” she said. “Girls have to know their rights”. After listening to the volunteers talk about all the different options for contraception, she is reviewing her own choices. “Family planning protects girls,” Aminata said. “It means we can protect ourselves from pregnancies that we don’t want”.

Fatoumata Yehiya Maiga
story

| 08 January 2021

"The movement helps girls to know their rights and their bodies"

My name is Fatoumata Yehiya Maiga. I’m 23-years-old, and I’m an IT specialist. I joined the Youth Action Movement at the end of 2018. The head of the movement in Mali is a friend of mine, and I met her before I knew she was the president. She invited me to their events and over time persuaded me to join. I watched them raising awareness about sexual and reproductive health, using sketches and speeches. I learnt a lot. Overcoming taboos I went home and talked about what I had seen and learnt with my family. In Africa, and even more so in the village where I come from in Gao, northern Mali, people don’t talk about these things. I wanted to take my sisters to the events, but every time I spoke about them my relatives would just say it was to teach girls to have sex, and that it’s taboo. That’s not what I believe. I think the movement helps girls, most of all, to know their sexual rights, their bodies, what to do and what not to do to stay healthy and safe. They don’t understand this concept. My family would say it was just a smokescreen to convince girls to get involved in something dirty.  I have had to tell my younger cousins about their periods, for example, when they came from the village to live in the city. One of my cousins was so scared, and told me she was bleeding from her vagina and didn’t know why. We talk about managing periods in the Youth Action Movement, as well as how to manage cramps and feel better. The devastating impact of FGM But there was a much more important reason for me to join the movement. My parents are educated, so me and my sisters were never cut. I learned about female genital mutilation at a conference I attended in 2016. I didn’t know that there were different types of severity and ways that girls could be cut. I hadn’t understood quite how dangerous this practice is. Then, two years ago, I lost my friend Aïssata. She got married young, at 17. She struggled to conceive until she was 23. The day she gave birth, there were complications and she died. The doctors said that the excision was botched and that’s what killed her. From that day on, I decided I needed to teach all the girls in my community about how harmful this practice is for their health. I was so horrified by the way she died. Normally, girls in Mali are cut when they are three or four years old, though for some it’s done at birth. When they are older and get pregnant, I know they face the same challenges as every woman does giving birth, but they also live with the dangerous consequences of this unhealthy practice.  The importance of talking openly  The problem lies with the families. I want us, as a movement, to talk with the parents and explain to them how they can contribute to their children’s sexual health. I wish it were no longer a taboo between parents and their girls. But if we talk in such direct terms, they only see disobedience, and say that we are encouraging promiscuity. We need to talk to teenagers because they are already parents in many cases. They are the ones who decide to go through with cutting their daughters, or not. A lot of Mali is hard to reach though. We need travelling groups to go to those isolated rural areas and talk to people about sexual health. Pregnancy is the girl’s decision, and girls have a right to be healthy, and to choose their future.

Fatoumata Yehiya Maiga
story

| 03 February 2023

"The movement helps girls to know their rights and their bodies"

My name is Fatoumata Yehiya Maiga. I’m 23-years-old, and I’m an IT specialist. I joined the Youth Action Movement at the end of 2018. The head of the movement in Mali is a friend of mine, and I met her before I knew she was the president. She invited me to their events and over time persuaded me to join. I watched them raising awareness about sexual and reproductive health, using sketches and speeches. I learnt a lot. Overcoming taboos I went home and talked about what I had seen and learnt with my family. In Africa, and even more so in the village where I come from in Gao, northern Mali, people don’t talk about these things. I wanted to take my sisters to the events, but every time I spoke about them my relatives would just say it was to teach girls to have sex, and that it’s taboo. That’s not what I believe. I think the movement helps girls, most of all, to know their sexual rights, their bodies, what to do and what not to do to stay healthy and safe. They don’t understand this concept. My family would say it was just a smokescreen to convince girls to get involved in something dirty.  I have had to tell my younger cousins about their periods, for example, when they came from the village to live in the city. One of my cousins was so scared, and told me she was bleeding from her vagina and didn’t know why. We talk about managing periods in the Youth Action Movement, as well as how to manage cramps and feel better. The devastating impact of FGM But there was a much more important reason for me to join the movement. My parents are educated, so me and my sisters were never cut. I learned about female genital mutilation at a conference I attended in 2016. I didn’t know that there were different types of severity and ways that girls could be cut. I hadn’t understood quite how dangerous this practice is. Then, two years ago, I lost my friend Aïssata. She got married young, at 17. She struggled to conceive until she was 23. The day she gave birth, there were complications and she died. The doctors said that the excision was botched and that’s what killed her. From that day on, I decided I needed to teach all the girls in my community about how harmful this practice is for their health. I was so horrified by the way she died. Normally, girls in Mali are cut when they are three or four years old, though for some it’s done at birth. When they are older and get pregnant, I know they face the same challenges as every woman does giving birth, but they also live with the dangerous consequences of this unhealthy practice.  The importance of talking openly  The problem lies with the families. I want us, as a movement, to talk with the parents and explain to them how they can contribute to their children’s sexual health. I wish it were no longer a taboo between parents and their girls. But if we talk in such direct terms, they only see disobedience, and say that we are encouraging promiscuity. We need to talk to teenagers because they are already parents in many cases. They are the ones who decide to go through with cutting their daughters, or not. A lot of Mali is hard to reach though. We need travelling groups to go to those isolated rural areas and talk to people about sexual health. Pregnancy is the girl’s decision, and girls have a right to be healthy, and to choose their future.