Project Lead(s): Juliana Pena
Sierra Leone has one of the highest rates of teenage pregnancy worldwide with 28% of girls aged 15-19 either pregnant or having already given birth. 83% of pregnant adolescents did not want to get pregnant with half of these girls reporting they had been forced into sex.
Adolescent girls’ lack of agency and access to quality health information, coupled with their social isolation, leaves them vulnerable to physical and mental health issues, gender-based violence, transactional sex, and early marriage.
These issues are exacerbated by poverty, illiteracy, and stigma.
Based in Kambia, the project aimed to increase knowledge on mental and physical health related topics as well as positive health behavior. The program was delivered by Sierra Leonean Social Workers recruited and trained by IsraAID to provide the technical aspect on mental health and psycho-social (MHPSS) in collaboration with SHADE-SL staff and volunteers. SHADE-SL is a grassroot NGO based in Kambia, fighting against SGBV in the District.
MHPSS resilience group sessions were provided to 150 adolescent girls and boys between ages 13 to 25. Topics during group sessions included emotional first aid, anger management, stigma and shame, and adolescent sexual and reproductive health.
MNCH sessions were provided by professional healthcare providers to address nutrition, umbilical cord care, HIV in pregnancy and more.
The final stage of the project supported participants in developing group businesses. Groups were trained on ‘Skills for Marketing and Rural Transformation’ and financial management.
An ongoing peer support network was developed and implemented.
Through the program activities, a large proportion of participants acquired and improved knowledge on sexual and reproductive health, MNCH, child care, and coping strategies. Participants reported fewer symptoms of anxiety, depression, trauma, and suicidal thoughts.
There was a 10% re-enrollment in school among those who had previously dropped out.
Group businesses have generated profits and peer support networks have continued to support individuals after the program.
The project also found some limitations of their program, mainly that interventions for girls in crisis require a multi-sectorial approach and should involve child protection components.