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  • Family Planning 2012: Getting It Right For Girls


    This generation says no: girls talk child marriage


    Child marriage endangers girls' lives and limits their potential. Three Ethiopian girls tell their story

    Ethiopia has made important progress in ending child marriage in the past five years. Still, 63 per cent of Ethiopian girls are married by the age of 18. Here, three girls share their child-marriage experiences and we look at a programme making advances in breaking tradition.

    Girls in Ethiopia don't have a strong voice within their communities and are generally not recognised as sources of knowledge or solutions. In contrast, Girl Hub sees girls as the experts on their own lives. To inform its programming in Ethiopia, Girl Hub needed to capture girls' insights and experiences of child marriage. Working with the Sub-Saharan Africa Research and Training Center, and using an innovative software tool called SenseMaker, 300 stories were collected and analysed. Here are three of those stories.

    "This girl was 12 years old…"

    "There was a girl who lived in my area whose family were very poor. Because they were so poor they wanted to get her married at an early age. When she got married, this girl was 12 years old and the man was 27. She became pregnant. She had no one to support her in the pregnancy. So this girl suffered much on delivery. She could not give birth and died. Is it not sad? We should learn from this girl's story, educate our families and our communities." - adolescent girl, Ambo, Ethiopia

    "I still feel angry…"

    "I have a story I would like to share. When I was a child I faced a number of difficulties. I went through to grade nine at school, but then I was forced to stop my education and to get married because I lost the support of my family. After grade nine (aged 15), being a girl it's a must for us to get married. It means losing our virginity. I went through all of that. I was from a poor family and they made me stop my studies and get married. I still feel angry about it. Girls shouldn't be made to stop their education." - female mentor of an adolescent girl, Ghimbi, Ethiopia

    "Her life was spoiled by her parents' decision"

    "There was a 12-year-old girl whose parents wanted her to get married. She was a clever student who wanted to be a doctor. But because the girl's father loved money too much he didn't want to send her to school and instead forced her to marry a 50-year-old man. The intention was for the girl's life to improve, but her life was spoiled by the decision made by her parents. She got pregnant. Since she was still very young, she suffered a great deal during the pregnancy. She became ill and, on the long journey to the hospital, she passed away. Her father felt sorry." - adolescent girl, Debre Zeit, Ethiopia

    Case study: This generation says no

    In the Amhara Region of Ethiopia, one in five girls are married by the age of 18. But things are changing.

    Six years ago, a new project, Berhane Hewan (Light for Eve), was implemented by the government of Ethiopia, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and the Population Council. The programme worked with communities to tackle the root cause of child marriage.

    By encouraging people to talk about the value of keeping girls in school, and giving simple incentives such as school supplies, the project transformed centuries of tradition in months. Nearly 10,000 girls have delayed marriage and stayed in school.

    When asked today what would happen if someone in her village tried to marry their daughter before the age of 18, Aynete Abera gives a straightforward answer: "We would not allow it."

    Impact of the programme.

    In May 2011, the UK Department for International Development approved a new programme to scale up Berhane Hewan to reach 200,000 girls by 2015. That programme is called Finote Hiwot - 'Bring Light To Your Life'. The Nike Foundation is a member of the advisory committee for the programme.

    Find out about girls' fight against child marriage in India 


    Myths and truths about family planning for girls


    Amy Babchek from the Nike Foundation shakes up out-of-date thinking about girls’ family planning needs

    Girls are finally on the agenda for family planning pledges, but misinformation about their needs and behaviour stops girls getting access to the advice and resources they need for family planning. Amy Babchek from the Nike Foundation is myth-busting.

    At this year's London Summit on Family Planning, global leaders pledged funds and resources for an additional 120 million women and girls by 2020. That's right - girls. Adolescent girls and young women represent 26 million, or 20 per cent, of that total, and that's a major breakthrough.

    Adolescent girls and young women in developing countries haven't always been included when it comes to meeting family planning needs. Why? Because they become entangled in religious, political and cultural arguments, many of which are myths, yet still widely believed. Here are some of the worst...

    MYTH: The world knows a lot about the situation of adolescent girls under the age of 15 when it comes to early sexual activity and early childbearing.

    TRUTH: Publicly available information on the situation of very young adolescent girls aged 10-14 years is limited. Yet we know from secondary analysis that in 14 sub-Saharan African countries, 15 per cent or more of girls reported having sex before their 15th birthday. And that's just those who reported - the number is likely to be higher. A substantial proportion of sexual encounters involving very young adolescents are forced or coerced.

    Want more details?
    Investing when it counts

    MYTH: Adolescent girls understand their body, menstrual cycle, conception and contraception.

    TRUTH: Cultural barriers make correct information about puberty and reproductive health and contraceptives inaccessible. Girls often feel shame and humiliation about their menstrual cycle, so even when they do know where or whom to ask questions, they don't. This also affects their contraceptive use and ability to plan pregnancy. Because adolescent girls don't understand their body well, they also don't understand how they become pregnant or how to prevent pregnancy.

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    Charting the future
    Girls decide: choices on sex and pregnancy

    MYTH: Adolescent girls who have correct information about and access to family planning (contraception) begin having sex earlier, and have more partners.

    TRUTH: Girls who have access to information and contraception have a later age at sexual debut, are less likely to experience coerced sex (if they have built social assets), and are more likely to use contraception when they do have sex.

    Want more details?
    Start with a girl: a new agenda for global health

    MYTH (that we often hear from girls): Contraception makes girls infertile, gain weight, grow facial hair and/or get cancer.

    TRUTH: Most contraception has no effect on girls' fertility; some medically intensive methods (such as IUD, implants, etc) need to be properly administered by a trained medical provider to be safe for girls and women.

    Want more details?
    World Contraception Day: myths, rumours and rubbish

    MYTH: All modern contraceptive methods work for adolescent girls.

    TRUTH: Permanent sterilisation is not an option. And girls want contraceptive methods that they can control, that they can keep very private and that are longer acting - but not permanent. Sex for girls is often out of their control, and when they can't negotiate condom use to protect them from disease, they at least want to be protected from unwanted pregnancy. Girls don't want to be seen acquiring or using contraceptives because, whether married or not, using contraceptives goes against cultural norms (girls shouldn't have sex out of wedlock and should want babies once they are married). Girls often don't have the means to regularly acquire contraceptives.

    Want more details?
    Start with a girl: a new agenda for global health

    MYTH: Girls who do access contraceptives are adequately informed about how to use them.

    TRUTH: Girls often have misinformation or misunderstanding about how to properly use contraceptive methods, with the pill being among the most misunderstood.

    Want more details?
    Facts on the sexual and reproductive health of adolescent women in the developing world


    Commit your resources to girls and young women, the untapped accelerators of economic development, and by 2020 you will have unleashed the girl effect through access to contraceptives and family planning.



    In Pictures

    I Pledge For Girls

    Family Planning

    Backing girls at the London Summit on Family Planning 2012. Here's who pledged and how to reach them

    The facts on girls and family planning

    Family Planning

    What we can deliver by 2020 – if we invest in getting the right family planning solutions to girls now

    Take this story, it's for you

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