Making the right choices in adolescence would guarantee a better future
"Listen to the right advice and take charge of your future". This is Florentine's motto to face the many challenges of her teenage life.
You have to start having sex and get married as soon as possible if you don't want to have painful periods. That's my grandmother's advice,
Florentine Zarasoa lives with her grandmother in the rural commune of Ifarantsa (Anosy region), in southern Madagascar. Having moved to another commune a few years ago, her parents visit her from time to time. Florentine is a 5th gradestudent at the secondary school, which is thirty minutes from her home.
When she started menstruating at the age of 12, she often felt abdominal pain. Her grandmother had told her to start having sex to stop the pain. Surprised by these tips, Florentine sought the advice of Odelette who is a young community worker in the village. "Odelette convinced me to think only of my studies. She then took me to the health centre where I was examined by the doctor. He told me that everything was normal and prescribed me some medication to calm the pain," says the teenager, proud to have made the right choice.
Going through a difficult time
In Madagascar, especially in the southern regions, living adolescence is not an easy situation especially for girls. "Girls are often encouraged by their parents to get married very early because of tradition," says Odelette, who has faced many cases. There are not many places where teens can have information about sexual health. In fact, 34.7% of adolescent girls aged 15 to 19 have already experienced pregnancy.
In the Anosy region, health services for adolescents have been set up by the government with support from UNICEF and partners such as the Korean International Cooperation Agency (KOICA). Present at the community level and health centres, these services offer adolescents an opportunity to better manage their sexuality. In 2018, 20,400 teenagers including Florentine received counselling and care at the 44 youth-friendly health centres in the Anosy region.
Florentine wants to continue her studies until university. "I would like to become a teacher later so that I can educate the children in my community. I will also pass on to my little brother and sister all the knowledge I have acquired so that they can take charge of their future," she says.