Baby by choice, not by chance

Korto is a 17-year-old girl living in Gbarnga, central Liberia. She hopes to go the University of Liberia to study engineering someday. But if Korto is to realize her dream of getting a university education, she must avoid an unwanted pregnancy.

The odds of her doing so, however, are against her. In Liberia, nearly 8 in 10 girls become pregnant by their twenty-fourth birthday because they either do not know about or cannot access family planning methods or services. A variety of reasons—including cultural and religious barriers, health worker bias, proximity to health facility, and/or availability when a facility is open—contribute to their lack of information and access. It is not surprising, therefore, that girls and women between the ages of 14 and 25 bear the largest number of children and suffer the highest numbers of maternal mortality in Liberia.

In response to addressing adolescent reproductive health needs of young girls like Korto, USAID is funding the Rebuilding Basic Health Services (RBHS) project to assist the Liberia Ministry of Health and Social Welfare to organize and implement local contraceptive days. The concept of local contraceptive days, which take place at both the district and county levels, came from World Contraceptive Day, which is celebrated on September 26 and works to remove barriers like those that Korto faces. RBHS’s contraceptive days bring family planning information and services to locations that enable young people to easily access and use them.

As a result of the Gbarnga contraceptive day, 700 young people including Korto participated in a variety of discussions on sexuality and reproductive health concerns at the family planning fair. One-hundred and ninety-eight participants decided to use a contraceptive method. Korto chose Jadelle, a family planning method that will protect her from pregnancy for as many as five years. Satisfied with her action, Korto exclaimed, “When I have a baby, it will be by choice, not chance!”

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