Julianna’s Story: A Youth-Powered Drumbeat

By: Emma Beck, Associate Communications Manager, PSI

Julianna once had no interest in contraception.

“I feared it would hurt my fertility,” Julianna says. The 17-year-old thumbs through old science notes stacked on her knee.

She has read through these hundreds of times before—the very same papers Julianna has safeguarded since she dropped out of school after giving birth to her now six-month-old son.

In Malawi, three in 10 girls aged 15-19 have had or is expecting a child. Among this cohort, one in five girls will drop out of school.

Through funding from the German Government through KfW Development Bank and USAID, Project N’zatonse is reversing these statistics.

Across 14 of Malawi’s hardest to reach districts with some of the highest teen pregnancy rates, the PSI/Malawi-implemented Project N’zatonse works with and for young people aged 10-24 to provide combined health, income generation and social development activities to more than 602 thousand of Malawi’s most vulnerable youth. The project has delivered more than 1 million sexual and reproductive health services since 2014, of which includes 220 thousand modern contraceptives.

Julianna has a plan: through the health services and information received from N’zatonse, she has set out a roadmap to raise her son, to protect herself from an unwanted pregnancy for the next five years and to keep her academic chops sharp as she vies to, one day, return back to school.

Four months ago, Julianna selected an implant at an Open Day, much like the one she’s arrived at today. Community members listen attentively to the village chief addressing the value of making healthy choices. Girls leave the circle to enter service tents hidden by the trees lining the courtyard’s perimeter. One-by-one, they receive makeovers in one tent before heading to another to receive contraceptive counseling.

“The provider I met with helped me understand I didn’t have anything to fear. My implant now gives me peace of mind,” Julianna says.

“Contraception will help me to get to where I want to go. I can now focus on my plan to go back to school and become a doctor.” The afternoon light catches the red sparkle of Julianna’s pink knitted beanie, a Superman emblem stitched in front. “One day, contraception will be part of my son’s plan too.”

Photo credit: Emma Beck, PSI

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