Meet Monica Rashid: Monica is 16 years old and from the village of Sumbawanga in the Tanga region in Tanzania. She’s the oldest of four children and ambitious to finish school and become an engineer.
Earlier this year it seemed Monica’s career ambitions would have to be put on hold as she found out she was pregnant. Desperate to complete her education and unsure of who to turn to, Monica searched for someone who would perform an abortion.
She found a doctor who agreed to help and underwent the abortion in secret at her boyfriend’s house but soon began to bleed heavily. Days afterwards Monica was still bleeding and was so weak she was forced to tell her mother what had happened. Rather than being supported, Monica’s disclosure was met with anger and she was beaten so badly by her mother she lost consciousness.
Thankfully Monica was taken in by her boyfriend’s family and looked after there. She was also advised by her aunt to visit the Marie Stopes Tanzania (MS Tanzania) outreach team at the Pongwe health centre. Here our team were able to refer Monica for post-abortion care services and offer her counselling about contraception. Monica has now decided to have an implant fitted to avoid any further unplanned pregnancies.
Like many girls and young women in Tanzania, Monica became pregnant due to a lack of education about sex and contraception. “Had I known how to prevent myself from getting pregnant I would not be fighting with my mother right now.” Although she is now back at school and on track to complete her studies, Monica’s experience has been a painful and bitter one. The repercussions for her not only include recovering from an unsafe abortion but dealing with the stigma and the estrangement from her family who refuse to have her live with them. “I am so ashamed of my acts and I wish my mama would forgive me right now. I am having a very hard time”.
Conservative cultural beliefs in Tanzania mean that pregnancy among unmarried girls is often considered a disgrace to the whole family. Yet Monica represents 63% of adolescents in Tanzania who are in a relationship and are sexually active. Young people in Tanzania have a difficult path to navigate if they want contraception often encountering judgement and an unwillingness to be treated when they turn up at clinics to access family planning services. The lack of sex education and access to family planning for young people contributed to 8000 girls dropping out of school due to pregnancy in 2011.
Around the world Marie Stopes International is working hard to reduce unsafe abortion and the harm that it carries. In Tanzania last year, we provided 610,955 people with a modern method of contraception which averted an estimated 33,432 unsafe abortions. We are committed to providing contraception for those women and girls who would otherwise have no access to these services and prevent more girls from having to experience the same pain and suffering as Monica.