If only she’d known more about her own body and had help from a health teacher, like the one who has been working at her school for the past few months through a Plan International program. Then, life could have been completely different for Rosemary.
Now, she is stuck in an incredibly difficult situation. She has dropped out school and is six months pregnant with the child of a stranger.
“School was always a challenge for me,” said Rosemary. “We do not have much money at home, so buying textbooks or a uniform was difficult. Still, I managed to follow a few lessons with the help of others. Until I had my first period.”
Rosemary used old rags to prevent blood from leaking out while she was at school.
“But that didn’t work very well and I got blood on my dress,” she said. “I was ashamed and when I had my period I stayed home from school. I did not feel so good.”
One day a stranger approached Rosemary.
“He told me that I could buy sanitary pads and that they would protect me against the blood,” she said. “He was happy to give me money. I bought the pads and was very happy until the man visited our house a few days later. He said he wanted the money back, but I didn’t have the money. We went to the man’s home and to pay the debt I had to have sex with him.”
Rosemary did not know you could get pregnant from having sex.
“Nobody had ever told me this,” she said. “My old classmates have told me that they now have a special teacher at school who tells them about things like this. This lady also gives self-made emergency pads to the girls who need them. They make the emergency pads at the Health Club after school. I wish I had known all that.”
Many children in Uganda – both boys and girls – have little knowledge about their own bodies. Girls do not know what is happening to them when they get their period. The first time it happens, many think they are ill or even dying. They do not know how to protect themselves.
To increase the knowledge children have about such things, Plan set up a health education program in Uganda. In addition, after school, children get together at health clubs to learn more about the subject and talk about their experiences.
Sadly, Rosemary saw no other solution than to quit school. She and her mother are devastated.
“I wish my daughter could finish school,” her mother said. “It is important. Then she would have had a better chance in life than I got. Now that is impossible.”
Rosemary’s mother hopes her daughter can go back to school after the birth, but it won’t be easy.
“My daughter is too ashamed,” she said.