Grandmothers Help Prevent Teen Pregnancy during COVID-19 in Senegal
Combatting teen pregnancy is a priority of the Girls’ Holistic Development (GHD) program implemented by the non-governmental organization Grandmother Project – Change through Culture (GMP).
GMP’s approach involves men and women of three generations (adolescents, adults, and elders) to promote girls’ rights and change social norms regarding girls’ education, child marriage, teen pregnancy and FGM.
GMP has found that grandmothers are an abundant but underutilized resource for girls. They often have more time and patience than mothers to support girls faced with challenges at school, in the family and with boys.
GHD activities strengthen the relationships between girls, mothers and grandmothers to protect girls and promote their wellbeing. Local education and health officials contend that GHD has contributed to decreased teen pregnancies in Senegal.
In Senegal, children were out of school for 8 months due to COVID-19-induced closures. During the entire period, grandmothers continued to bring neighbourhood girls together for evening story-telling sessions and GMP intensified under-the-tree participatory learning sessions with girls and grandmothers to discuss COVID-19 prevention measures and the risks of teen pregnancy and child marriage. During that time, there were many media reports of a spike in teen pregnancy across Senegal, especially in Kolda Region where GMP works. In early September, GMP staff visited all 34 villages targeted by the GHD program to see if there had been any teen pregnancies, and, positively enough, none were reported.
Local midwife and grandmother leader, Mariama, stated; “There have not been any teen pregnancies so far. We, grandmothers, continue to meet with the girls, discuss with them and advise them.” Young Hassantou stated; “In the past, our grandmothers spent lots of time talking with us to help us avoid getting pregnant and stay in school. That is why there haven’t been any teen pregnancies here.”
It appears that the GHD intergenerational and grandmother-inclusive strategy had paid off by providing girls with information and confidence to make good decisions when faced with advances by boys.
In late November, we were disappointed to learn that Mariama had just examined a 15-year-old girl and discovered that she was two months pregnant. The girl, her mother and grandmother all regret what has happened. The grandmothers in the community have now vowed to redouble their efforts to spend time with both girls and boys, to collectively work to protect girls.
Judi Aubel, Executive Director
Grandmother Project – Change through Culture