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Liberia: adolescents take advantage of information and services to prevent unplanned pregnancies

Patience was 15, when she decided to date a boy who was three years older than her. Few months later, she became pregnant. “My parents asked me to leave their house when they realized that I was pregnant,” Patience said.
She moved with the boyfriend to his parent’s house where she stayed until she gave birth in 2015. “After I gave birth, I wanted to immediately go back to school but my boyfriend and his mother refused. They insisted that I remain at home to take care of the baby,” she said. 

But in 2018, Patience took a bold step of vacating the boyfriend’s house; leaving the baby behind in the hope of going back to school. “On this day, I went to visit a friend. Upon arrival, I met a woman explaining about life skills education and family planning. I took interest in the discussion and asked how I could get additional information. She invited me to one of her community meetings. The lessons I learned during my first attendance of the community meeting encouraged me to join the group as peer educator. Besides being a peer educator, I am also back in school,” Patience recounted. 

Empowered to make choices

Patience is a member of her school health club which is part of the Empowered and Fulfilled programme being implemented by the Government of Liberia with support from the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and funded by the Embassy of Sweden. The programme supports adolescents and young people to access age appropriate sexual and reproductive health and rights information and services and life skills education. 

Eliza, age 13, illustrates some possible life decisions with the aid of  
'The Tree of Life' diagram as  her teacher looks on. 
©UNFPA Liberia/Calixte S. Hessou

“The sexual and reproductive health choices of young people can have everlasting consequences.. Adolescents pregnancy can lead girls to drop out of school, which deprives them of their right to education, thus negatively impacting their future potential,” said Dr. Bannet Ndyanabangi, UNFPA Representative.

“UNFPA has worked with the ministries of Education and Youth and Sports in Liberia to integrate and teach comprehensive sexuality education for both in and out of school adolescents and youth,” Dr. Ndyanabangi said. 

This group of adolescents leads the peer-to-peer SRHR education
through their School Health Club at Tweh Jaiklay High School,
River Gee County, Liberia. ©UNFPA Liberia/Calixte S. Hessou

The programme uses communities, schools and health facilities to reach adolescents and young people with a comprehensive package of SRHR information and services with a goal to contribute to teenage pregnancy reduction in four southeastern counties of Liberia (Grand Gedeh, River Gee, Maryland and Grand Kru) with an average teenage pregnancy rate of 32 percent. 

An Impactful Intervention

Through teachers, health clubs and health rooms, more adolescents are accessing SRHR information and services.

A group of adolescents awaits access to SRH services at a youth
friendly center in Zwedru, Liberia. ©UNFPA Liberia/Calixte S. Hessou

A midterm evaluation of the programme shows an increase in the use of modern contraceptive method by adolescents; from a baseline of 24.7 percent in 2017 to 67 percent in 2019; and a decline in the overall incidence of teenage pregnancies among girls, age 15-19 years; 32 percent in 2017 to 24 percent in 2019. Apart from helping the older adolescents who are already in sexual relationship to practice safe sex, the programme is helping younger adolescents to develop the ability to resist pressure to engage in unwanted sex, and cultivate positive behaviors.