Beyond Pregnancy - I still Have a Dream.

Fatuwa
Posted September 22, 2021 from Uganda

In January 2020, while watching a popular TV show one night, I had of the Corona Virus in China,  and the threat it had so far paused  to the neighboring countries. And there were 2 health experts on that show,  among others who were quite conviced that Corona Virus was very far from being a problem in Africa,  and Uganda for that matter. Thinking about it, I some how agreed with them. 

In  mid February, we woke up to news of cancellation of the Religious pilgrimage to Mecca for Muslim (Hijjah) due to the Corona Virus. And this was cancelled globally!!! Aah, I started to smell a rat.  More bad news kept trickling in until it finally was in my closest neighborhood -in Kenya, that they had closed all schools after registering Corona Virus in the population. This was for me the saddest moment. It such a BLOW,  this cannot be happening.  It confirmed to me that now,  my Country was no exception any more,  and indeed, in March, 20th, the president ordered all schools to close,  15 million learners, and soon,  the whole country was under lockdown.

With schools closed, one - two months into lockdown, news reports started trickling in of school going girls who had gotten Pregnant. This story kept growing, in terms of number of reporters, category and the statistics of girls who were falling prey to pregnancy day by day.  And, to make matters worse,  the lockdown, which was first  communicated to be for 42 days kept extending. For me, having been part of the struggle of girls' education since age 19 this brought tension,  a deep pain, and worry on the consequences of these pregnancies across the board. 

In seeking to do something,  because,  one of the principle I live with is,  I don't like lamenting. I endeavour to do my best after understanding and appreciating the problem,  to focus on what next - the SOLUTION. And, I don't believe in impossibilities, for me it's always just a matter of time.  However small my contribution may be,  I am only at peace if I do something towards solving a problem.

So I took to what I had,  my pen, paper,  phone,  laptop,  networks. I started writing proposals,  talking to colleagues - brainstorming on what we can do.  After failing in a number of proposals,  I didn't give up. 

One day, my organization received an invitation for a National Education NGO's meeting, shorty after the total lockdown, had been lifted. These meetings had been happening but I had not attended many in a longtine, save for two program managers. This particular day,  one of my managers suggested that I attend this one,  and he really insisted, even when it was easier for him to do so, given the meeting venue.

I listened to him and went. It was a very resourceful meeting,  I must say, and one of the key discussions was on the "Inclusive Education Policy", which raised alot of debate around the effects of COVID 19 on education,  the good,  bad and ugly.  So as we concluded, I waited for a strong binding action point: I felt it was not coming through.  

So,  I walked up to the main coordinator and suggested that as a national education NGO membership,  we ought to pronounce ourselves on the fate of pregnant candidates as schools were about to open for the candidate classes only. I suggested that we write a paper to the ministry of education demanding some clear directives to stakeholders to ensure these candidates sit their exams, given the heavy losses the sector would register if they don't sit. 

With a few supporting the idea,  many were not willing to write the paper,  so I volunteered to do so,  which I did,  then it was presented to the ministry. I felt so good,  I had finally gotten a small breakthrough,  to which I confirmed when I saw the ministry pronouncing themselves clearly on the matter, with directives to the education institutions.  

With very good memory of the past, when schools were given similar directives and acted Less or mostly not,  I still kept thinking,  what more can we do,  because reports kept coming in of the number of girls who had not returned to sit their final exams due to pregnancies. 

In interaction with one of our partner schools on their status, I heard this headteacher mention that she had registered pregnant candidates,  followed them up,  and gone out of  her way to ensure they return,  study and sit their exams.  This was really tough,  as I picked from her sharing, sometimes girls were getting mis-carriages, others were aborting, etc, so the in and out was quite a load to carry. The climax of her story was the fight she put up for one girl,  who even lost the baby (Still Birth), 2 weeks to exams - after all the  support, love and care by the entire school. The good news,  this girl came back to school and sat for her final exams,  like nothing had happened.

At this point,  I realised that in this school's painful yet lovely story,  lay another solution that we could work with to ensure these teenage mothers stay in school, and or return to school and complete. 

I embarked on another challenge. How do I get this story told to all stakeholders, as a means to cause change and results for these teenage  girls' education.  The good lord is good.  He guided me.  And, a "Documentary was Born." 

My lessons learned from this whole process and my Vision for the Post COVID 19 is engagement of multiple stakeholders to ensure all girls who have gotten pregnant due to closure of schools among other abuses return to school, continue their education. Men, boys, parents,  educationists, the health and legal services sector, cultural and religious leaders - who are the custodians of the social disccourses that many a time,  result into the un intended consequence of the root causes of teenage mothers not continuing their education - we need to engage on this matter, change our perspectives and do the very best for the girls,  the children born, their families, community, individual countries and the world at large.  We must do this, because the consequences of these pregnancies once not proactively managed, will be very negative for the world at large. 

Documentary launch is around the corner,  the struggle continues. We are Not Yet Done. It is just the Beginning.

I speak for Uganda,  I speak for Sub-Saharan Africa.

Thank you. 

Fatuma Wamala

Development Worker, Entrepreneur,  Life Coach. 

 

This story was submitted in response to #ShoutYourVision.

Comments 9

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Radha Oli
Sep 22
Sep 22

such a great heart mam I salute you I love you

Fatuwa
Sep 22
Sep 22

Thank you Radha. I love U too.

ruthibelle
Sep 22
Sep 22

Excellent initiative, Fatuma! There's a lot to be learned from what you've done: speaking up for teen mothers. My country also struggles with teen pregnancies, and we are worried about what has happened with those numbers since the pandemic.

I commend your bravery to write that paper to the government! And I agree that if change is to take place, men, boys, government, the schools, and all other players in society have to be engaged.

Such concern, leading to courageous actions!

Thanks for sharing, Fatuma!

Fatuwa
Sep 23
Sep 23

Ruthibelle,
Thank you for the encouragement. Let's hold each others hand, to do whatever little we can do.
Best Regards.

AishaAz207
Sep 24
Sep 24

You are so inspiring, especially to the younger generations. Affected me greatly, thank you.

Fatuwa
Sep 25
Sep 25

Thank you Aisha for the encouragement. May the almighty enable us to keep going.

Best of Love.

Beth Lacey
Sep 26
Sep 26

I wish you well with your initiative. This is such an important issue. Would love to see the documentary

Fatuwa
Sep 26
Sep 26

Hullo Beth,
Thank you very much for the encouragement. Will link up with you to see he documentary.
Best Regards.

Fatuwa
Nov 19
Nov 19

Hullo Beth,
Hopefully you are fine. I recall you expressed interest in the documentary I shared about.
The launch is scheduled for 30th November 2021, 2:00pm - 4:00pm EAT/ GMT+3.
Register Here: https://forms.gle/JGC8AqBLiaLmNZPQ8.
We shall send link for viewing in 29th November.

In Sisterhood We Serve
Fatuma Wamala.