Mozambique: 'I Can Now Go Back to School' - Teenage Mother Overjoyed She Can Prevent Unintended Pregnancies With Contraception

Blackboard and chalk eraser in classroom.

Displacement Camp, Nampula Province — Fátima António, 18, the mother of a five-month-old boy, told UNFPA she was "apprehensive and hesitant" about using contraception. She is not alone. Nampula province has a worrying trend of nearly half of all girls aged 15 to 19 being teenage mothers (AIS 2015).

Fátima had decided to start using family planning and a day later, she joined a queue of women and girls that formed in the early hours of the morning. They were awaiting the arrival of a mobile health team that would share information and offer family planning services for people based in a displacement camp.

"I'm quite anxious," she said.

For three years, Fátima has lived in the displacement camp after fleeing attacks in Cabo Delgado as violence escalated in northern Mozambique. Being displaced makes her more vulnerable to gender-based violence, sexual exploitation and unintended pregnancy.

In Mozambique, the rate of unintended pregnancies among women aged 15 to 49 is high, at 88 per 1,000 women (2015-2019). Yet the adolescent birth rate is even higher, at 180 per 1,000 girls aged 15 to 19 (2004-2020).

Recently, Fátima began receiving information from activists who raise awareness in the communities about different methods of family planning. They form part of UNFPA projects funded by donors, including the Government of Japan, the European Union through the Spotlight Initiative, and through the UN Central Emergency Response Fund (UN CERF).

"The activists made me aware of the benefits of contraceptives. I initially had some doubts about which method would bring me advantages," she said. Any remaining doubt dissipated in the presence of the attending nurse, Luisa, who led the mobile brigade.

A choice of methods was offered to Fátima and she opted for the contraceptive implant. "This method offers me more confidence that I won't get pregnant again for the next two years," she said. "I can now go back to school, because I no longer run the risk of interrupting my studies because of an unplanned pregnancy."

Until now, she had received contradictory information on family planning from her peers. With the support of Nurse Luisa, she has become more confident from being better informed. She will raise awareness of contraceptive methods among her peers, she said.

Empowering women and girls

Knowing that timely access to health facilities and health units remains a challenge, particularly in areas impacted by the conflict, mobile brigades travel long distances and traverse tough terrain in Mozambique to provide remote-based sexual and reproductive health and gender-based violence prevention and response support, including information and counselling, to women and girls. In 2022, mobile clinic teams in Nampula conducted more than 80 visits, supporting more than 6,600 women and girls to adopt a modern method of contraception.

Amid worsening violence and conflict in some Mozambican provinces, including Cabo Delgado and Nampula, mobile brigades serve as a lifeline to young women like Fátima. Their timely and much-needed sexual and reproductive health services and support reduce the risk of unintended and unwanted pregnancies, and empower women and girls to make decisions over their bodies and their future.

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