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Lucy’s early pregnancy
led to forced marriage

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Lucy Ndehani from Mgunga, Dodoma in Tanzania. She is 18 years old and has a 1½-year-old child.
Photo: MSI

Lucy Ndehani is 18 years old and from Mgunga village in the Dodoma Region in Tanzania. She was carrying a 1½ year old child when she visited Marie Stopes Tanzania (MST)’s outreach site, a government clinic in her village. Lucy was desperate, disappointed and did not know what to do, her dreams having been shattered by an unwanted pregnancy. She dreamed of becoming a nurse and serving her community in the village, but she became pregnant while she was in 8th grade.

The father is a young man around 18 years old, and their parents forced them to get married. The boy’s parents paid a dowry, and the marriage was arranged. Lucy therefore had to stop going to school and get married before completing her education and achieving her goal. She was forced to accept and resign herself to a life as a wife with all the duties that apply in rural areas in Tanzania, i.e. working on the farm, cooking, housekeeping and having children.

Lucy is not yet ready to have another child and therefore she went to MST’s outreach clinic for advice and guidance. After her consultation, she chose Implanone as a contraceptive. Using Implanone will protect her against another unwanted pregnancy until she is ready to have another child. Lucy, her husband and child now live with the husband’s parents, who take care of their basic needs. Lucy contributes with her labour.

In Tanzania, girls often start school late and often take longer to finish their education. Girls are expelled from school if they become pregnant while going to school. They are allowed to return to school after the birth, but this rarely happens. Tanzania’s legislation on marriage is also contradictory. Whilst the Law of Marriage Act of 1971 permits girls to enter into matrimony with their parents’ consent, the Sexual Offences Special Provisions Act of 1998 specifically stipulates that a man who has sexual intercourse with a girl under 18 years of age will be found guilty of committing an offence and punished accordingly.

Three tough questions: Answers from Ulla Muller,
Country Director, Maire Stopes International, Tanzania

1. Why are sexual and reproductive health and rights important?

More than 200 million women throughout the world wish to use contraception to avoid an unwanted pregnancy, but they do not have access to contraception. For many women, not being able to decide for themselves how many children they wish to have and at what points in their lives is a matter of life and death. Each year, approx. 358,000 women die as a result of pregnancy or childbirth - the majority in the poorest countries. For others, having many children means being trapped in poverty, with no means of escape. Each year, more than 20 million women choose to have an unsafe abortion as the only way out, and approx. 47,000 die as a result, whilst 5 million need further treatment to save their lives.

2. What are the biggest results you have achieved stemming from Danida-supported projects in 2012?

With support from Danida, MSI empowers women and couples to claim their right of access to high standards of reproductive health services. MSI works closely together with the governments in our programme countries. In 2012, we calculate that we have helped more than 13 million women, and we have performed more than two million safe abortions and provided PAC (Post-Abortion Care) services, thereby saving women’s lives. This prevents more than five million unwanted pregnancies, 2.1 million unsafe abortions and 11,300 deaths, and it saves USD 346 million on the national health budget in the countries in which we operate.

3. What are going to the greatest challenges in the field of sexual and reproductive health and rights in the coming years?

At the London Summit on Family Planning in July 2012, promises were made to ensure 120 million more women access to family planning by 2020. This access could save the lives of more than 200,000 women and girls as well as prevent almost three million more children from dying in their first year of life. One of the major challenges will be to ensure that these promises are kept.

Marie Stopes International has contributed this case. Thus, the case and the information provided do not necessarily represent the opinions of Danida or of Denmark.