From teen mum to teen mentor

20 September 2016
Based on her experiences, Jiminie Moussa advises other girls to avoid unwanted pregnancies. © UNFPA Comoros / Nasser Youssouf

NGAZIDJA, Comoros – When Jiminie Moussa, a Comorian girl born into a modest family, began dating a man who was old enough to be her father when she was just 16 years old, her parents knew about their relationship – and that he was supporting her studies. But then life grew more complicated.

“When I found out I was pregnant, I immediately informed my parents and they recommended that I have an abortion because my boyfriend is not from (our) village and I'm a minor,” she recalls. But Jiminie decided to go against their wishes.

“I told them I was going to keep the child and not die during an abortion. They chased me away from home. I explained this to my boyfriend and he told me that he disliked me and I should resolve things with my family,” she says.

I was afraid to tell her the truth because I was due to write exams. But I could not hide my pregnancy for long. - Jiminie Moussa

Jiminie sought refuge with a friend but, because of her studies, she decided to keep her pregnancy a secret.

“I was afraid to tell her the truth because I was (due to write) third class exams (BEPC) and I wanted to learn and prepare for them, while thinking how to solve (this). But I could not hide my pregnancy for long,” she says.

She tried to reach her boyfriend, without success.

"When I started university, my parents realized that I want to learn,” says Jiminie.
© UNFPA Comoros / Nasser Youssouf

“I learned that he left for Anjouan, for fear of being arrested by the police. Others told me that he was in Dar es Salaam or in Mayotte. In any case, he was no longer in Ngazidja. He disappeared and I decided that the only solution was to kill myself.”

Jiminie took an overdose in an attempted suicide. Fortunately, her friend rushed her to hospital and saved her life.

“Afterwards, she asked me why I had attempted suicide and yet I had refused an abortion in fear of God. ‘Suicide is not the solution,’ she advised me. She went to my family and told them of my situation. My parents told her to look after me or let me die because they did not like me,” she says.

When children bear children

In Comoros, among adolescents who become pregnant without intending to, pregnancies are more common among uneducated girls in poor or rural areas. In some regions, such as Nyumakélé, girls experience social pressure to marry early and begin bearing children while still young.

In areas where comprehensive sexuality education is lacking, teens may not know how to prevent pregnancy, or they may be too ashamed to or not dare to access health services providing contraceptives.

In recent years, UNFPA has made investments to reverse this situation. All health centres are now supplied with contraceptives, including the emergency pill, and women are increasingly using modern contraceptives such as condoms for protection during sex.

Thanks to the interventions of UNFPA and its partners – ASCOBEF in particular – young people are being made aware of the consequences of unwanted pregnancies and are being invited to access and use contraceptives such as condoms to prevent unwanted pregnancies as well as sexually transmitted infections, including HIV. In cities in particular, there is growing awareness among adolescents of their options for making healthier choices.

Pursuing an education to fulfil her life’s potential

For Jiminie, education was a priority. Throughout her pregnancy she continued with her school work and her friend, who was married but had no children, supported her until the birth of her baby.

Jiminie succeeded in obtaining her high school diploma. Determined to continue with her studies, she let her friend take her baby to Anjouan, where her husband worked.

“We agreed that they would keep my child until I finished my studies and found a job in order to take care of my child. When I started university, my parents realized that I am not stupid and that I want to learn,” she says.

I have now passed my third year at university and I'll succeed, Inshallah. - Jiminie Moussa

Jiminie has since reconciled with her family, but they refuse to support her. 

“I continue to take care of myself without their help,” she says. “I feel like I have neither a father nor a mother. I manage by selling small donuts, running a small business (to get by). I have now passed my third year at university and I'll succeed, Inshallah.”

But she knows she has to take responsibility for her life too.

“Even though my parents did not take their (parental) responsibilities (seriously), I should take responsibility for choosing the right person,” she says.

Jiminie uses her experiences as a basis for the advice she offers to other girls.

“I advise other girls my age and tell them that what happened to me,” she says. She explains to them that if they wish to continue with their studies, they should not pursue a man thinking that he will help them out financially. If their parents are unwilling to take responsibility for their studies, they should pray to God. Nor should girls start dating men when they are as young as 13 years old, or even 16 years old, if they want to have no regrets.

She advises them to wait until they are older before getting into a serious relationship with a man. “When we are adults we can understand if the person (we want to date) is serious (about us) or not. Then you should (be able to) deal with this, and be able to avoid unwanted pregnancies and abortions,” she says.

By Nasser Youssouf

This article was translated into English from Shikomor.

To watch Jiminie’s story, click here.