In Madagascar, preventing early pregnancies by educating young girls
Seventeen-year-old Casmira breaks the cycle of early pregnancies in her family while becoming a community advocate.
It's an ordinary evening for Casmira and her father when the phone suddenly rings. Her father answers, and he hardly believes what he’s hearing – his 17-year-old daughter has been chosen to represent Madagascar abroad for an event gathering young change-makers for their communities.
"If someone had told me that I would have a daughter going abroad 30 years ago, I would never have believed it," he says with a smile. Casmira was abandoned by her 16-year-old mother when she was merely a year old and a half old. Since then, she has been raised by her grandmothers. Her paternal grandmother also gave birth to her father at the age of 15. For Casmira's family, and many of her friends, early pregnancy has led them to dropping out of school. In the Analanjirofo region in northeast Madagascar, 37% of girls aged between 15 and 19 years have had child (1). Nationally, 15% of girls’ dropout of school due to early pregnancies (2).
Casmira was actively involved in the Let Us Learn "Students’ Club" supported by UNICEF when she was in middle school. "The Students’ Club really motivated me to fully dedicate myself to my studies and to increase my efforts to achieve my goals,” she says. “In the club, the members were sharing information on how to protect ourselves against early pregnancies," she declares. Casmira loves to study and spends much of her free time reading. "I am incredibly proud of my daughter," her father says emotionally.
"Casmira is brave and ambitious, she was the top student in the entire second-grade class,” says the principal of her high school,” Mr. Randriamaro Tomy. “She is a role model for young people her age."
"Participating in that event is a great responsibility for me. It's an opportunity to raise awareness among my peers so that they don't experience early pregnancy,” says Casmira. “I feel sad for my friends who had to drop out of school because of it."
For Casmira, girls’ education is crucial to ensuring a better future for the next generation and to escape poverty. When she was younger and unwell, her family used to treat her with traditional methods, which didn't always work. Now she aspires to become a doctor, providing the best healthcare to her community.
Casmira has defied the odds in her family by making her story different from her mother’s and her grandmother’s.
The Let Us Learn program aims to help out-of-school children return to the classroom and to encourage those already enrolled to continue their studies, creating opportunities for vulnerable adolescents, especially girls. The program helps them to understand their right to access education in a safe and protective environment. It revolves around three pillars of equity: reaching out to out-of-school children, expanding girls' education, and improving learners’ outcomes.
(1) Demographic and Health Survey (EDSMD-V) 2021
(2) National Adolescent and Youth Health Policy 2019