A Second Chance: Family Planning and Skill Building in Benin

By Leonce A. Dossou, PSI/ABMS Communications Specialist

“I was shocked when my youngest daughter got pregnant at age 13 – she was in 5th grade,” began Juliette Tchekpo.

Juliette is a mother of three girls who lives in Kere, Benin, a country in West Africa, where only 14% of reproductive-age women use any kind of contraceptive method.

When Juliette found out that her 13-year-old daughter was pregnant, her first thought was to have it out with the young man who got her pregnant and ruined her chances of having a successful life. She soon realized that this wouldn’t change anything.

“What I needed to do was to take care of my daughter and ensure that she had a safe birth, despite her still immature body,” said Juliette.

“She ended up having a C-Section, and she was so fragile that she needed to quit school.”

After spending some time at home without work, one evening Juliette’s daughter heard about an opportunity to join a vocational training program, the Académie de l’Artisanat.

“Without hesitation, my daughter said yes,” Juliette remembers.

The Académie de l’Artisanat program is part of Transform/PHARE’S five-year project designed to infuse innovative practices from a range of disciplines into USAID-supported social behavior change communication. Through the design process in Benin, Transform/PHARE designed a prototype craft academy to reach young, out-of-school women with information and referrals for modern contraceptive methods. The model was selected based on the insight that young, out-of-school women were interested in learning income generating skills to earn a modest income.

“After her first training session, she returned home with an earring she made herself, and a lot of information about responsible sex, family planning, and STI prevention.”

Juliette continues, “If only my daughter had this information before, she wouldn’t have gotten an unwanted pregnancy.”

As a mother, Juliette believes that this information not only educates her daughter, but also gives her the knowledge to defend herself in life.

“I am overjoyed and that’s why I am an active participant of the Académie’s “Mom Talks.”

In the Mom Talks, mothers like Juliette learn about adolescent sexuality, how to give them advice, and how to follow up with them based on what they learned at the Académie de l’Artisanat. Juliette regrets not having this information before so that she could have possibly helped prevent her daughter’s unplanned and premature pregnancy.

“From the bottom of my heart, I can only hope for the continuity of this project and its expansion to all of Dassa-Zoumè, for the young women and their parents who are facing increasingly disturbing rates of unwanted pregnancies.”

The craft academy has been implemented in two districts of the Dassa community in central Benin – Dassa1 and Kèrè. A total of 14 beading workshops (8 in Dassa1 and 6 in Kèrè) were organized between July and September 2017 and 99 women were reached.

This post is part of a series of stories collected by Transform/PHARE, a USAID-funded five-year project implemented by PSI and its partners IDEO.org and Camber Collective that focuses on strengthening health-related behavior change programming.