Volunteer mentors link adolescent mothers to health services

Rhoda with her baby at a postnatal clinic.

Teenage pregnancy is a major health challenge in Baringo County. Girls who get pregnant in their teens face numerous challenges. Rejection by family and friends pushes some of them into depression.

Social isolation makes it hard for the girls to access antenatal services and the support they need to take good care of themselves and their babies after delivery.

Rhoda Chesire became pregnant when she was 19 years. She dropped out of school. She kept to herself and planned to seek help from a traditional birth attendant so that she could give birth in the privacy of her parents’ home.

Valentine Komen: Says health workers treated her well and gave her confidence.

“Girls like me face many hardships, sometimes people say bad things about you,” Rhoda recalls. “I lost all my friends when I got pregnant.”

One of the community youth peer educators, known as Binti Shujaas (My Sister’s Heroine), visited convinced her to visit the local health centre.

USAID’s Afya Uzazi Program trained Binti Shujaas to reach out to teenage mothers and link them to health and other services such as opportunities to start small businesses.

The volunteers are all young mothers below 24 years of age, which makes it easily to use their own stories to encourage their peers to accept their condition and seek health care. The training has also given them confidence to talk to parents so that they can support the teenage mothers.

Another teenage mother, Valentine Komen, has also benefited from a Binti Shujaa.

A volunteer advised her to visit a health centre when she was three months pregnant.

At the hospital, she was ushered in and helped to navigate to the various services by another volunteer, who has been trained to work with health workers.

“I was scared as I approached the reception, but my case was treated with confidence,” Valentine recalls.

The service providers reassured Valentine. They gave her information on how to care during pregnancy and to prepare her for childbirth.

During follow-up clinic visits, health workers assisted Valentine to register for the national Hospital Insurance Fund’s Linda Mama scheme that guarantees free hospital services for mothers.

“I was told about the importance of visiting the clinic regularly. I agreed because I wanted a healthy baby,” she says.

Both Rhoda and Valentine attended all four recommended antenatal clinic visits, gave birth in the hospital, and attended the post-natal clinics. They also receive information on the contraception options available. They were both assisted to return to school.

The Binti Shujaa model is one of the social and behaviour change interventions that Afya Uzazi implemented to improve access to reproductive health and other services for adolescent girls and young mothers.

Binti Shujaa volunteers form a support network for adolescents who are pregnant or have babies. They work with health care workers to ensure the adolescents get good care during pregnancy, deliver in hospital, and have skills to care for themselves and their children.

They link young mothers to social protection schemes opportunities for economic empowerment, including by helping them start savings and credit schemes.

The volunteers work with Youth Champions, young men and women trained to provide life skills education. They join hands in efforts to prevent teenage pregnancy and address other social problems facing the youth.

A negative attitude among service providers is one of the barriers that hinders pregnant adolescents from accessing services. Afya Uzazi has sensitized health care providers to provide friendly services that meet the needs of adolescents and youth. Many of the health facilities Afya Uzazi supports set up special clinic days for them.

It the second year of implementation that ended in September 2018, Afya Uzazi trained 84 young mothers aged 20 to 24 to become Binti Shujaa mentors.

The mentors have educated over 1,600 adolescent mothers aged 15–19 about good nutrition, exclusive breastfeeding, family planning services and support to return to school.

Key achievements:

  • 197 Binti Shujaa mentors trained
  • 1,590 pregnant teenagers and mothers received health services
  • 751 teenager mothers receive business skills