For young women in Ghana, accurate information about sexual health can be hard to come by, leading to teen pregnancies. That's why, at MSI, we’ve put adolescents at the heart of our work. Unwanted pregnancy endangers girls’ health and keeps them from pursuing their dreams. In fact, complications during pregnancy and childbirth are the leading cause of death for 15–19-year-old girls globally.
Philomena attends an outreach session in Ampenyi, Ghana.
Teen pregnancy derails girls’ plans
Before she learned about MSI, Philomena heard nothing but frightening stories about how contraception made your stomach swell and disrupted your periods. Scared that contraception would harm her health, she decided not to use it.
At 16, family circumstances forced Philomena to drop out of school. That same year, she faced an adolescent pregnancy. Unable to support a family at such a young age, she had to send her child to live with her sister.
Philomena knew that she wasn’t ready to have another child right away. She and her partner needed time; her partner’s job as a builder wasn’t going well, and she wanted to learn to sew so that she could contribute to the family income. But she was still worried about the side effects of contraception. She soon became pregnant again.
“If it wasn’t for these misconceptions, I’d have had family planning before, and I wouldn’t have had a second child. I wanted my first child to grow and do well. I wanted to space my children.”
Overcoming misconceptions about contraception
When Philomena heard that MSI was visiting her community, she knew it was time to overcome her fears. She walked 30 minutes to an outreach site and nervously waited her turn, unsure what the treatment would involve. “I’ve heard that your skin is cut and stitched up when they insert the implant.” She thought she would ask for a short-term method.
However, when she talked to an outreach worker, she realized that her fears were misplaced. After learning about her options, she decided on a three-year implant. The procedure was quick and non-invasive, no cutting or stitching involved.
“The service was very good; it was totally different to what I’d heard. I’ll recommend it to others, as some might have heard what I had – so now I can tell them it’s not like that."
Reaching adolescents with reproductive healthcare
Adolescents face unique barriers to using contraception, such as inability to pay for services, provider bias and limited ability to travel. An estimated 20 million adolescents aged 15-19 want contraception but can’t access it. 3.2 million adolescents resort to unsafe abortion annually. Since 2017, MSI has invested in adolescent-focused services, putting young people at the heart of our programs.
Providers like Lawrencia Bortioker Borte are leading the charge to help adolescents access reproductive healthcare and avoid teen pregnancies. As an MSI Lady in Accra, Ghana, she focuses on getting her adolescent clients accurate information, so they aren’t scared away by misconceptions like Philomena was.
“Young people lack information about sexual health, some don’t really know what they are up to sexually, so I spend a lot of time educating and guiding them, I also talk about preventing STIs.”
Lawrencia also recognizes that an unmarried young person might be judged if they show up at a clinic seeking contraception. That’s why she meets clients in the privacy of their homes, where they can confidently open up about their concerns.
“I meet them in their own area, they are more comfortable, they can confide and share their problems and hopefully we help."
MSI providers like Lawrencia see 4,000 adolescent clients around the world every day. By tailoring our services for adolescents, we’re making sure that young women like Philomena have the tools to decide their own futures.