Girls who give birth before they turn 15 years of age have increased risks of complications and death from pregnancy and childbirth compared to other age groups. Plan International and UNFPA, United Nations Population Fund have joined together to bring attention to this issue with a project titled, #childmothers.
Internationally awarded photographer Pieter ten Hoopen and journalist Sofia Klemming Nordenskiöld spoke to child mothers in six countries across four continents, as a way to give a voice to young mothers. The photo and video series highlights issues stemming from very early motherhood, such as forced marriage, lack of sex education, rape, poor access to contraception, and gender based violence are all highlighted through the stories of these young mothers.
Check out a few stories and photos from some of the girls their spoke to.
“It’s difficult being a mother. I don’t have time to play anymore. My daughter often cries and I have to stay at home and take care of her and wash nappies. Before I had a baby, I used to play and go wherever I wanted. I like playing football.
I had no idea how you get pregnant. I didn’t even know I was pregnant. We didn’t learn about those things at school. It was my mother who told me I wasn’t looking well. When I realized I was going to have a child, I was upset and annoyed. My mother was too. I told my boyfriend, but he denied responsibility.”
Mulenga, 14, Zambia
“My dream is to go back to school; I liked it so much. I had a group of friends that I went to school with, where we would perform and sing. It’s sad to see my friends going to school and I can’t go.
Even my boyfriend continues to go to school like before while I need to stay at home. My one wish is that my son will get an education.”
Angelica, 13, in Haiti
“After my primary school exam, I called my teacher to get the results. Then, since he had my number, he kept calling and asked me to come and see him. I said I wouldn’t go. One day, he threatened me. So I got frightened and went there to get the results of my exam. Then he raped me.
My parents and his parents agreed that his family should take care of me until the delivery. So I was living with them for five months, until I had the baby.
Before the baby, I was attending school. Now, when I see my friends going to school, it makes me sad. Very sad. I wanted to be a mother later – not now.”
Aïssa, 15, Burkina Faso
“For the delivery, I was supposed to have a caesarian section, but it was too expensive so they didn’t do that. At the hospital they said I was too young and sent me off to a local health clinic. I lost a lot of blood during labor. But since we had no money, we couldn’t pay for a blood transfusion. So I came back home and used traditional medicine.
I was in bed for two months after the delivery. I was in between life and death.”
Poko, 15, Burkina Faso
“In school, we learned about periods and pregnancy. I knew at least how you became pregnant but I didn’t think it would happen to me. It’s easy for young people to get contraceptives at the local clinic but I didn’t go there because, well, I was shy. I haven’t started using contraceptives yet, after having my baby, but I will get the injectable one.
During my pregnancy, I was still going to school. My friends laughed at me so that was annoying sometimes. There are other girls in school who are pregnant too. When it was time for me to deliver, the father of my baby booked a taxi to take me to the clinic. When I got there, I threw up and then gave birth just two hours later. I wasn’t afraid. I stayed strong during the whole delivery.
I don’t like being a mother because I am still young. Babies cry a lot and usually get sick. The only thing I enjoy is breastfeeding. I didn’t have any idea how to take care of a baby. I learned at the clinic and got help from my mother and sister.
I miss school and would love to go back again. I will start when my mother finds money to pay for my fees and books. She will look after Raymond. In the future, I want to be a teacher but I don’t want to get married. I see women who get married, suffer. Men often abuse their wives and beat them. I don’t want that.”