Making a Choice for School and Reproductive Health
If a woman doesn’t have a choice about when to have children, or how many she has, chances are she also can’t chose whether or not she goes to school or joins the workforce. Give a woman the ability to chose the timing and number of her pregnancies, and you will have a direct impact on her health, education, and economic participation.
Last year, I had the opportunity of hearing the Vice President of Malawi, Joyce Banda, speak about how many women are dying from childbirth in her country, and the high rates of fistula among young women – often a result of getting pregnant before their bodies were ready to bear a child. I was struck by her passion for improving the health and wellbeing of the people in her country, especially the women and young girls who know all too well the reality of what it is like to live in a country with one of the highest incidents of HIV, and a very high maternal mortality rate (984 per 100,000 live births). In listening to Ms. Banda speak, I was struck by the compassion she has for these young women, as if they were her own sisters and daughters. Even more so, I was inspired by the clarity with which she spoke about how to solve these issues – keep girls in school through the secondary level. Allow a girl the opportunity to learn, and in the process, give her body time to mature and develop before she has children. Could it really be that simple? I think so.
That’s one of the reasons I was drawn to working at Pathfinder International. Changing women’s lives can seem overwhelming, but through actions like education and providing reproductive health care, we can truly change girls’ and women’s futures.
Take Margaret for example, a young girl who lost her parents in Tanzania. By giving her the opportunity to stay in school, you almost inherently give her the ability to start setting goals for her future. In Margaret’s case, that dream is to one day become a teacher. With a little help from Pathfinder, she’s on her way to making that dream a reality.
What I appreciate about Margaret’s story is it makes you realize how easily we really can make a difference. Whether it’s working for an organization like Pathfinder, taking an action like sharing Margaret’s story , or making the choice to give up dinner out once a month to give $25 to help keep a girl in school, we can all contribute. And together, with women like Vice President Banda and Margaret, we really can foster new opportunities for girls and women worldwide.