Twenty-four year old Annet, from Uganda, is an unmarried single mother.
With the help of a Plan International program, she is campaigning for sexual health services and information so that more young girls do not follow in her footsteps.
“I gave birth at 16 years old and my parents neglected me and could not give me enough to cover my basic needs,” she said. “When I fell pregnant, my parents were disappointed.
“After I had my baby, I wanted to go back to school, but I didn’t have any money to pay for child care. I had to find money to pay my mother to look after my child, so I was forced to get a boyfriend who could afford to pay my mother some money so I could return to school.”
In 2016, Annet joined the Ni-yeti (meaning “It is Ours” in Swahili) youth program. The three-year program, funded by the Swedish International Development Agency (SIDA), integrates information about youth sexual reproductive health and prevention of gender-based violence among young people in five districts in Uganda.
Plan is training young people as peer educators, organizing youth-led outreach sessions and community dialogue meetings, coordinating sexual reproductive health and gender-based violence camps, and strengthening local drama clubs.
Both male and female peer educators advocate for youth rights and the end of harmful cultural practices against girls and young women, such as early and forced marriages and domestic violence.
“Now I advocate for young girls to keep them at school and achieve their dreams,” she said. “I encourage them to go to health centers and use contraceptives such as condoms. I was not told about contraception, I don’t want other girls to be like me.
“I want younger girls to achieve their dreams so I’m advocating to keep them at school. I want to change their story.”