Jeannette Ndayisenga, 24, had an unwanted pregnancy when she was 22 years old. A police officer acknowledged the paternity of the baby and had her registered in the commune as her daughter. However, he does not provide for the child. Jeannette lives with her parents, who cater for her needs and those of her child. "Though my daughter’s father acknowledges paternity, he provides no support for her upbringing." Jeannette explains.
Having observed how tough her situation as a single mother has been, she has dedicated herself to the service of other women facing the same challenges. Thanks to the Maternal and Child Health Project implemented by a consortium composed of World Vision Germany, World Vision Burundi and a collection of youth associations in Burundi (CPAJ), women like Jeannette have access to reproductive health services and are fighting socio-cultural barriers such as those based on gender.
Awareness in schools and hills
Jeannette is among other single mothers who join groups of peer educators going to meet young people in schools. This is because youths are in great need of information on issues about sexuality and the consequences of unsafe sexual practices. "Our representative, Dédith Niyongere, writes to directors of schools seeking for opportunities to interact with students," Jeannette explains that, "In the hills, we work with chiefs of hills who mobilize communities to attend our meetings where peer educators sometimes use this opportunity to talk about issues to do with children's sex education. We also take advantage of meetings organised by these chiefs of hills to talk about community development.
"Students are more responsive to our trainings than the out-of-school youth," Jeannette has realized. ‘’To maximize participation, we give information about our meetings during the Sunday mass and hold the meetings immediately after the mass is over to ensure that we reach the maximum number of people.’’ Jeannette says.
Partnership with health centres helps
The partnership we have with health centres is helpful with meetings that peer educators organise. "The health workers provide information to answer the many questions students ask about birth spacing methods," Jeannette says. Peer educators work with the health centres for messages dissemination while they also benefit from the information.
When the peer educators attend training sessions on Tuesdays and Fridays at 3 pm, they learn about birth control methods as well as prevention of sexually transmitted infections and HIV / AIDS. They are taught about abstinence, the use of condoms and modern family planning methods. Birth spacing methods become useful to unmarried girls who do not wish to have other unplanned children from their partners who are yet to marry them. "It is easy to have a second baby with a partner you are still attached to. The attachment deepens when he regularly comes to see his child, making it important for her to use a birth spacing method." Jeannette advises.
Without being able to give statistics, Jeannette notes that in her neighbourhood, unwanted pregnancies have significantly decreased. She attributes this to the awareness raising meetings they hold. Coaching is directed towards individuals who display risky behaviours. Peer educators approach them and try to influence them to change their behaviour. Prenatal services are also offered to girls who become pregnant, they are tested for HIV / AIDS and if they are infected, care is given to the mother to ensure that the infant is born healthy without the virus. " I have personally accompanied two girls who are in such a situation," Jeannette concludes.