As the roll-out of vaccinations lets us dare to hope for brighter days ahead, now is the time for us to share the hope with others.
After the strains of lockdown, it’s right that we celebrate progress in tackling this pandemic. There is much to be thankful for as we return to the people and places that we love.
In the earliest days of the COVID-19 pandemic, the virus was being declared the ‘great leveller’. While it’s true that coronavirus makes no distinction for wealth, power or culture, that doesn’t mean we are sharing an identical global experience as we weather this storm.
School children have been among those hit hardest by the pandemic around the world. The missed education can have a long-term impact, particularly for those who already had to overcome barriers to education.
As classrooms are reopening across the UK, we can be confident that, although challenging, our children will have the support they need.
However, even though schools are open in Malawi once again, not every child is free to return to the classroom. School closures, economic pressures and unemployment due to COVID-19 have led to a sharp rise in teenage pregnancies.
Asale is 15 years old. When her school closed she had nothing to do and so she spent more time with her 17-year-old boyfriend.
“We started chatting, as usual. Suddenly he started asking for sex. I tried to refuse but he convinced me that we were young and nothing can happen. After a month I missed my period.” Asale explained.
At first, Asale couldn’t face telling her mother. Her oldest sister had already been forced out of school when she became pregnant. Her mother was a widow and Asale knew how much her education meant to her whole family.
Asale considered an illegal abortion. Thankfully, instead of putting her own life on the line, she reached out to her sister for support.
Asale arrived at Mulanje Mission Hospital three months pregnant. After weeks of worry, she had found the words to tell her mother and they came to the hospital together.
“I was so afraid but I thank my sister who was very supportive. Otherwise, I could have committed suicide.”
Nurses at Mulanje Mission Hospital counselled Asale and her mother. Her mother confided that life wasn’t easy raising five children alone since Asale’s father had died. “Asale was my hope since her elder sister got pregnant two years ago. I thought Asale would do better with school.”
In Malawi, unplanned pregnancies usually mean an end to education and to the opportunity for girls to pursue their own hopes for the future. But that doesn’t have to be the case.
Mulanje Mission Hospital is supporting Asale through her pregnancy. They are also supporting the family so that, once the baby has been delivered and it is safe to do so, Asale can return to school. Completing her education will give Asale and her baby the best chance in life.
Unplanned pregnancies were a threat to the health and hope of girls in Malawi before the pandemic. However, the pandemic has turned this problem into a crisis for a whole generation.
Dare to hope. Share the hope.
As we dare to hope for a ‘new normal’ let’s make sure that we share that hope with others.
As our children and young people return to school our hopes for their future are restored. Let’s ensure the hopes of children like Asale are rebuilt too.
To learn more or support the appeal, visit here.