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Ending global poverty begins with women’s rights

Young and inspiring women’s rights activists in Mozambique: taking action on sexual and reproductive health and rights

Young and inspiring women’s rights activists in Mozambique: taking action on sexual and reproductive health and rights

by Paula Baker | March 8, 2020

This International Women’s Day we’re sharing images and experiences of inspiring young Mozambican activists who work with NAFEZA, a women’s rights organization, on sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR). These activists, and the fierce women they support, have their sights set on raising the equality bar for young women in Mozambique.

Credit: Caroline Leal/OXFAM Credit: Caroline Leal/OXFAM

She was 24 years old, with a two-year-old child. She was set to marry her boyfriend. But then she found out she was pregnant with her boyfriend’s child. He would not take responsibility for the unborn child and left her. Afraid to go on with the pregnancy – she had already struggled to care for one child, whose father was absent – the young woman didn’t know what to do.

Credit: Caroline Leal/OXFAM Credit: Caroline Leal/OXFAM

She thought “safe” abortions didn’t exist. But then she found out through NAFEZA that she had choices and options when it came to her own sexual and reproductive health and rights. She chose a safe abortion. The young woman, who asked to remain anonymous, said that while she made the right choice based on her situation, she has not told anyone about the abortion, for fear of rejection by her family and community.

Credit: Caroline Leal/OXFAM Credit: Caroline Leal/OXFAM

Helena Virgilio, 19, is a young activist working with NAFEZA in Mocuba. She connects with women and young girls in five communities to build their awareness about their sexual and reproductive rights.

Credit: Caroline Leal/OXFAM Credit: Caroline Leal/OXFAM

19-year-old NAFEZA activist, Helena Virgilio, updates her fellow SRHR advocates on the work she’s doing in the town of Mocuba.

Credit: Caroline Leal/OXFAM Credit: Caroline Leal/OXFAM

Guida Jacinto, 18, has been an activist with NAFEZA for one and a half years. Through her own personal experience – falling pregnant when unmarried and still in school – she knows the importance of the work she and her fellow advocates are doing.

Credit: Caroline Leal/OXFAM Credit: Caroline Leal/OXFAM

Working with NAFEZA in Mocuba, Jacinto speaks out on the importance of SRHR on the local radio station.  Jacinto taps into her personal experience as a young mother in her activism.

Credit: Caroline Leal/OXFAM Credit: Caroline Leal/OXFAM

Elizabete’s story is one no one – especially a young teenager – should experience. At 15 years of age, Elizabete was physically assaulted by a female friend, and then beaten and raped by two teenage boys. The soft spoken and shy teen said that after the assault and rape, she did not have the support of her father. Fearing for her safety, she moved for six months to a safe house in Quelimane for women who have experienced violence. There, she was able to get the support and help she needed.

Credit: Caroline Leal/OXFAM Credit: Caroline Leal/OXFAM

Now 16 years old, with a six-month-old son from a relationship with her former boyfriend, Elizabete is out of the safe house and living at home with her step-mother in another community. She feels safe. She has dreams of going to back to school one day.

Credit: Caroline Leal/OXFAM Credit: Caroline Leal/OXFAM

*Laura, 18 years of age, is a young mother with a seven-month old son, Calvin. As a teen, Laura was lured into marrying an older man with the promise of her studies being paid for by her husband. The arrangement worked until she fell pregnant and one day her husband disappeared. Left pregnant and facing the reality of raising her baby alone, Laura returned to her family. Through information she received from NAFEZA, Laura learned the importance of family planning. She’s now involved with radio debates in her community, where she talks about the need for family planning and gender equality. She is also focused on being the best mother she can be to the person most influenced by her – Calvin. She plans to teach him “women, all women, need to be respected.”

*Name has been changed

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