A pioneering approach to tackling the sexual health crisis amongst teenage girls in Sierra Leone has been developed by GOAL, supported by Irish Aid. Sierra Leone has one of the highest rates of adolescent pregnancy in the world, with 30% of teenagers falling pregnant before the age of 18, and GOAL is rolling out “Community Dialogue Sessions’ to address the issue. The sessions, aimed at teenage girls and currently running in three districts in Freetown, are also working to dispel myths about modern contraception. For social and cultural reasons young girls in Sierra Leone are actively discouraged from accessing sexual and reproductive health services and information. With girls as young as twelve falling pregnant, GOAL is working to break through these barriers and provide accurate information to teenagers. At one community dialogue session held in the Lower George Brook Community, GOAL staff met two young girls, Hassanatu, 18, and Alberta, 19, who have both just finished their final high school exams.
Hassanatu has been attending the Irish Aid funded programme since 2017 and has become an inspiring advocate for teenage sexual health in her community. Alberta, on the other hand, is more reserved, and had let the opinions of people from her village on contraception make her embarrassed to talk about sex or contraception. She used to only discuss sex with her childhood friend and would often enquire about the dialogue sessions in private when they were alone. Hassanatu convinced Alberta to attend a Community Dialogue Session and Alberta has been a regular participant since then, learning about family planning services, the dangers of adolescent pregnancy and to discount the myths from her communities about modern contraception. The girls expressed how happy they were to have this information at such a crucial time in their lives. They can now plan and achieve their dreams, and be advocates for women and girls in their communities and country by passing their knowledge about the importance of abstinence and modern contraceptive to other young women. Over 1,000 mothers in Sierra Leone die from maternal deaths every year, with 20% of these deaths of girls aged 12-18. That figure is a staggering 145 times higher than the maternal mortality rate in Ireland and emphasises the importance of working towards Sustainable Development Goal 3 which aims to reduce the global maternal mortality ratio to less than 70 deaths per 100,000 live births by 2030. With figures like these, it is clear a lot needs to be done to help adolescent girls access the right information and health care.
GOAL works to reach global SDG 3 in a number of programmes. Read more stories here.
To find out more about GOAL’s work on Sexual Health in Sierra Leone, read about the Hackathon held in Freetown in April 2019 here