Child pregnancy is a worldwide blight. Seven million girls in developing countries under the age of 18 become pregnant every year meaning that they have to grow up too soon, put an end to their education, look for adequate healthcare that they can afford, earn money somehow, possibly marry a much older suitor, and figure out a life for her and her child. 11 percent of all worldwide births are by girls between the ages of 15 – 19 according to the World Health Organization. These pregnancies cause far too many maternal and newborn deaths across the globe.
To bring awareness to the number of girls who become pregnant each year in lower-and-middle-income countries, Finnish fashion designer Paola Suhonen created a collection of six, brightly-hued maternity dresses with childhood motifs for 12-year-olds. If this sounds a bit sensational, you’re correct. Suhonen’s maternity collection is solely designed to show the world that too many young girls become pregnant each year because they often don’t have other life options but to become pregnant and are often not taught proper sexual and reproductive health education. It’s a sad state of affairs to be sure, but it happens every day. In fact, 5,500 girls under the age of 15 become pregnant daily.
Working in collaboration with Plan Finland as an issue raising endeavor, Suhonen traveled to Zambia with renown photographer Meeri Koutaniemi to recreate what would be a regular fashion shoot, but instead featured an expectant child mother, Fridah, as her primary model.
“I designed a collection that I wish is not needed and that I don’t want to sell,” said Suhonen. ” This campaign brings together two very important issues – children’s and women’s rights. I hope that people will wake up to the circumstances in which millions of girls live in developing countries.”
Plan Finland has created a thorough FAQ page to answer any questions about the ethics of this campaign. You can donate here.
This is a young, expectant mother who lives near Butajira, Ethiopia. She was married at 13 and will deliver her first child at 15. She walked to this “lie and wait” house (pictured above) because of excessive bleeding. She lives 30 minutes up in the mountains of southern Ethiopia from the “lie and wait” house. She has never seen a health extension worker and has never been to a health post. Her experience, once again, underscores how difficult it is for Africans who live in the most remote areas of a country to access quality health care.
Her mother, who is now 38, was also married very young, at age 12. She now has eight children. Her youngest is three months old.
I have been fortunate to visit health posts and family planning clinics in a handful of countries. One of the things I always ask to see while visiting are family planning kits used for educational purposes for clients. Some of the kits have been fancy, others have been fairly rudimentary, but they all serve the same purpose: educating women about their options to space or prevent pregnancies.
Below are a few photos of family planning kits I have seen in Ethiopia, Zambia and South Africa. You can also check out a Marie Stopes clinic I visited this summer.
And even though this isn’t a family planning kit I loved seeing young teenage girls at the Fountain of Hope community center for street affected kids reminding each other about peer pressure, STIs, and pregnancy.