A nurse for more than 30 years, Elizabeth Coker has vast experience working with women and children in Freetown. Known affectionately as “Nurse Betty”, Ms. Coker is an institution at Malama Community Health Post, Freetown, where she has worked for 16 years.
During and after the Ebola outbreak, Ms Coker noticed an anecdotal increase in the amount of pregnant adolescent girls who came to her health post. “Maybe it’s because there was no school,” said Ms. Coker of the pregnant girls. “[Other] girls go out late a t night to fetch water, and that’s how they become pregnant.”
Ms. Coker received training and support from the Services to Adolescent Girls Project to conduct outreach with some of the pregnant adolescent girls in her community. “We would visit the girls at the Learning Centre twice a month,” said Ms. Coker. “The girls would open up to us so much and talk about everything. The girls are under so much pressure and they need our encouragement.”
According to Ms. Coker, the girls were receptive to the sensitisation that they received. “We would encourage the teenagers to come to the clinic and to deliver at the hospital,” Ms. Coker said. “We also taught them to use family planning methods.” Educational attainment was foremost on the girls’ minds: “The girls want to further their education,” said Ms. Coker.
Ms. Coker hopes that the Project activities will continue in the future. “This project came at the right time, when these young ladies were in need,” she said. “We must encourage and support them to continue their education.”
Source: UNFPA Sierra Leone 2017 - report “Informing and Empowering Pregnant Adolescent Girls after the Ebola Outbreak.”
Gender equality and women’s empowerment is at the core of Ireland’s International Development Programme, One World, One Future. We believe that gender equality is a prerequisite to development and we are committed to developing and supporting gender-responsive programming and policy.
The Sustainable Development Goals, agreed by the Global community in 2015, include one specifically on achieving gender equality and empowering all women and girls. Goal number 5, contains targets on ending all forms of violence and harmful practices against women and girls.
One World, One Future identifies gender-based violence (GBV) as a fundamental abuse of human rights. The term, GBV, describes acts of sexual violence, physical violence and harmful traditional practices.
One in three women worldwide experience physical and/or sexual violence. This can have a serious impact on the health and well-being of survivors with long-lasting physical and psychological effects. Fear of GBV can often inhibit women’s participation in decision-making and leadership. The prevalence of GBV is also particularly high at times of humanitarian emergencies, especially in times of conflict, when normal systems of protection are often undermined.
As a result, Irish Aid has prioritised policy development, funding and research to address GBV.