Youth Story from Afghanistan
Adla, a 16-year-old, lives in a small village just outside of Kabul, Afghanistan. The rural landscape offers very little relief or greenery. The signs of a war-ravaged past, a tenuous present, and a resurgent future exist together in a fragile truce. Yet there is a sense of a cautious optimism for a better tomorrow as young people like Adla are determined to live their lives on their terms.
One of the challenges faced by them is the likelihood of marriage at a very young age. This social custom is partly traditional and partly driven by fear of conflict coupled with extreme poverty. The situation is compounded further by the lack of knowledge about family planning choices, little or no access to reproductive health services, and the absence of agency to exercise these choices. This has contributed to the country having one of the highest rates of maternal mortality in the South Asia region.
A peer educator with Afghan Family Guidance Association’s (AFGA) community outreach programme, Adla is convinced about taking the life-changing, critical information to her community. As a young person, she feels deeply about her peers’ ignorance about family and reproductive health issues and tries to learn as much as she can from AFGA’s training sessions. She regularly makes home visits to share information. She carries her training aids with her that depict what is to be done in different situations such as how can one make a birth preparedness plan to welcome a new baby into the world and ensure proper care for the mother. As a result, more people have begun to visit the mobile clinic, equipped with a male and female doctor and nurses, organised by AFGA, to take the sexual and reproductive health services to the villages.
“Now my friends have also begun to look up to me. They come to me and discuss their problems. When one of my friends was being forcibly married to a much older man, she came to me for help. I tried to talk to her family but couldn’t convince them but still I did not give up. I took the help of the counsellor in the mobile clinic and got her to convince the family. My mother was very surprised at my achievement. She had never imagined that I could do something like this,” says Adla with a spark in her eye.