On the occasion of the International Women’s Rights Day (8 March), Aide et Action is proud to share the stories of three young mothers – Erica, Nirina, and Christiana – from Madagascar who dropped out of school when pregnant but are now back in education and breaking stereotypes.
In Madagascar, one-third of young mothers between 15 and 19 find themselves excluded from education and society at large, leading them to be stigmatised and often unemployed. To address these issues and create a more equitable society, Aide et Action is working in partnership with the Ministry of Youth and Sports within the framework of our “Sandrarta” project to support 300 young mothers who have been discriminated against.
“Before I discovered the Aide et Action project, I had no income. I was just trying to earn enough to feed my child and myself,” says 25-year old Erica who joined the project in December 2021. “I don’t have a life like others because my child’s father abandoned us and I had to support ourselves at a very young age by any means. I did all the odd jobs I could, like fetching water, carrying building stones or carrying bricks.
Stigmatised and excluded young mothers
This three-year program is led by our association with the French Development Agency in order to offer 900 young Madagascans like Erica psychosocial support. This will enable them to regain confidence and employment. The project also aims to change mentalities and is developing awareness-raising activities on early parenthood and campaigns to improve the image and representation of young mothers.
Training and changing attitudes
The first training of the project focused on the development of life skills to support young single mothers with an improved self-image, to strengthen their self-esteem and, above all, to have the resources necessary to face daily life. “We are trained in life skills, which allows us to acquire knowledge, learn about sharing, living together and community life. I have already put these skills into practice and I have changed,” explains Erica.
Nirina, another young mother in the project, has noticed a change in behaviour in herself since joining too. “I am more careful with the money I earn and I save,” explains Nirina. “We learn from what we study,” attests Erica. “We see other things and we are more open-minded. It has opened my eyes to other aspects of life, and I have been able to correct my shortcomings. I have learned to talk more, especially in case of conflict. If someone makes fun of me, I am more forgiving and calm because I learned to control my emotions better since the training”. Erica hopes she can pass on these new behaviours to child which she believes to be important.
The Sandrarta project has given a glimmer of hope to these young single mothers. Christiana, a young mother who also participates in the project has developed a new outlook on her life. “We have learned to keep our spirits up, to stay optimistic, to have goals and to stick to them,” she says. “Even if you start at the bottom, one day you will be at the top … I would like to become a seamstress and then open my own tailor shop,” says Christiana.
The dream of developing a career and obtaining greater independence is a common aspiration among the project’s participants. “I dream of having a permanent job, being a civil servant for example so that I don’t have to depend on anyone,” concludes Nirina.