Stella Amojong Omunga
This profile was prepared when Stella Amojong Omunga was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2005.
The New Idea
In order to change the way society responds to teenaged unwed mothers, Stella is systematically working with key stakeholders—parents, doctors, friends, and teachers—to ensure that these girls don’t fall through the cracks. Teenage mothers are rejected by East African society; families disown pregnant daughters, nurses treat the girls disdainfully, and schools expel them from classrooms, closing the doors to further education that might help them regain a foothold and ensure a viable future for themselves after childbirth. This treatment not only hurts the girls and their futures, but it also does not prevent pregnancy: despite numerous campaigns to prevent pregnancy among unwed girls, teenage pregnancy continues to be a huge problem. Essential to the success of this effort, and Stella’s ultimate goal, is to change society’s perception of pregnant teens in order to improve sexual health education and stop the rising pregnancy rate. Stella has developed several interventions—including counseling the girls, training health workers, helping parents accept their pregnant daughters, and influencing the school system—aimed at changing mindsets toward unwed teen mothers and mothers-to-be and providing these girls with educational and occupational opportunities during and after pregnancy. Each locus of support reaches girls on a different level, to address issues of health, education, and financial and emotional support. In this way, Stella is best able to rebuild what has traditionally been taken away from girls as soon as they learn of their pregnancy.