I had no idea how you get pregnant
It is estimated that over 2 million girls give birth before they turn 15 each year. Child mothers are often out of school, married and may have serious health complications from their pregnancy or delivery. Around 70,000 girls between the age of 10-19 die from birth-related complications every year.
The exact numbers are unclear as girls under 15 are often invisible in national and global statistics. Their lives remain largely undocumented and therefore overlooked in development policies and programmes.
The #childmothers initiative features compelling stories and portraits of very young mothers from different parts of the world. They are being showcased as part of a travelling exhibition and on www.childmothers.org.
The aim of the initiative is to place the issue of very early motherhood on the global agenda and ensure very young mothers are represented in statistics and supported in strategies and programmes.
Mulenga*, 14 – Zambia
“I had no idea how you get pregnant. I didn’t even know I was pregnant. We didn’t learn about those things at school. I was afraid of the delivery. I thought I might die.
“I don’t like being a mother, but I like my child. I worry about the future and who will buy her things like soap and clothes.”
Ana*, 15 - Colombia
“I met this boy in school. Since I got pregnant we don’t have any contact. He doesn’t see this as his responsibility.
“When I was 8 months pregnant, I got very high blood pressure. A doctor performed a pelvic exam and decided to induce labour.
“I am back in school again… it's hard to study and be a mother at the same time.
“After what happened to me, I decided that I wanted to live alone – just with my daughter.”
Kiswendsida* – Burkina Faso
“I got pregnant at 14. I was with a boyfriend. My family reacted badly when they found out and now I don't see him anymore.
“When I was pregnant I continued going to school. One week after I gave birth I was back in school again. I didn't want to abandon my studies.
“In the future I would like to have more children. I think 26 is a good age.”
Rabeya*, 16 – Bangladesh
“I didn't realise when I got pregnant the first time. I had no knowledge about sexual education or family planning.
“Since I was 13, I have been pregnant 3 times. Kushum is my first daughter and the only one who survived.
“I don’t want to have any more children. I don’t have any more energy. I'm happy with my one child and thankfully my husband agrees.”
Janet*, 15, Colombia
“I didn’t want to have a child. When I discovered I was pregnant, I felt happy and sad at the same time. Happy for the baby and sad because I knew I had to drop out of school.
“I have no money to buy him his food or his diapers. When I don’t have anything to eat or food for Manuel, my family helps out.
“Maybe in 7 or 10 years, if our situation is better, I can have another baby.
“The majority of my friends are mothers and some of them have an even more complicated situation than me.”
*Names changed for child protection.
Photos by Pieter ten Hoopen.