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She thinks of how her life has barely begun and yet she’s ‘expecting’ and expected to bring about a new life herself. She wonders, “How will I cope?”
This girl, is one in approximately 18.5 million girls under the age of 19 who fall pregnant each year in developing regions. These girls who are children themselves – and are now facing a future of raising a child.* That is, of course, if they survive the dangers and complications of an underage pregnancy. Even their bodies, not yet fully grown, struggle to take on the role of mother.
Betina, was one of these girls. She gave birth to her child when she was just a teenager. Thankfully, they both survived the dangers of a teenage pregnancy but now they face a lifelong challenge – trying to thrive in a world full of obstacles for young mums.
One of the most limiting factors to Betina’s pregnancy was being forced to leave school. Betina left without the basic skills of being able to read, write or do simple maths. For mums like Betina, not having the basic skills to count, add or subtract makes the everyday tasks seem impossible. When buying food to eat, Betina has had to trust the seller to give her the correct change. She could have ended up paying double, even triple, the price. She couldn’t even count the change in her hand.
Mum’s like Betina may lack in confidence and find difficultly in managing money, accessing health care and supporting their child’s education. Each of these issues could have a lasting impact on both the mother and her baby.
In Malawi, All We Can is working with local people who are dedicated to giving mums, like Betina, a second chance to go back to school. A classroom has been set up especially for young mums. They have specialised facilities, such as a crèche for the babies allowing mums to focus on their studies. They teach nutrition and cooking classes, so the young mothers can learn how to feed their children a balanced, nutritious meals as they grow.
As Betina explains, “I did not think I would learn anymore [when I left school] but I have been given the help I needed to keep learning. I am now confident. I know how to sign my name and count. I am even running my own small business and making some money.”
Equipped with the basic but vital skills of being able to read, write and do simple maths, young mums, like Betina, can give their baby a better chance in life with a future that is bright and filled with possibility.
This Christmas, as we reflect on another teenage girl at a different time and in a different place ‘expecting’, not just any child but the Saviour of our world, I invite you to do something extraordinary. Order the Extraordinary Gift, ‘Bookworm’ and you can help a mother like Betina to go back to school, ensuring a bright future for both her and her baby.
Katie is All We Can's Direct Marketing and Supporter Care Manager. She studied law at Newcastle University and received her Master of Law (LLM) from King’s College London. Katie has a cross-sector background having worked in the business, political and charity sectors. Having specialised in human rights and immigration law at university, she has dedicated the last five years to working in international development and is committed to helping refugees. Katie is passionate about her local community and is a committed member of local groups and campaigns ranging from supporting women and legal aid to conservation.