‘I delivered through caesarian section. I had some complications, but nobody told me why, my mother knows only, so I am not thinking of getting pregnant now’Syrian child bride in Amman, Jordan17 years old, married at age 15
The above quoted experience was shared during a focus group discussion that I was leading in Amman, Jordan, last year with a group of child brides from Syria. The example illustrates three compelling issues around maternal health and rights that is boiled down to one thing: lack of access to information and services regarding reproductive and maternal health care, especially for young refugee girls who are already in a most complicated situation when they are married at a young age.
If we put our views regarding child marriages aside for the moment, we are left with the reality of what happens when these unions are formed and what it means for a young girl who is expected to become a mother.
Firstly, this girl was talking about the complications she had during her pregnancy. Having a thin and fragile body structure made carrying the weight of her unborn baby already a struggle. However, she had no idea how her pregnancy was developing, since regular prenatal care was not common in her situation; she was in a foreign country and had moved from a refugee camp to an urban settlement in which they were struggling to make a living when she was married and became pregnant soon after.
Secondly, her delivery did not go smooth either. The caesarian section was unexpected for her, but until today she still had no idea why this was done. Her mother remains silent about it, but it might also be that her mother does not know why it happened either. There is a clear lack of information regarding childbirth, but also of her rights, as she is entitled to know what was happening to her own body.
Lastly, her fear of getting pregnant again has implications for her relationship with her husband and with the family. She is afraid that it will go wrong again and already finds it tough to care for one baby. Again, information about birth control and long-term contraceptives is a need that is not currently being met.
This girl’s real life story stresses the importance of ensuring access to information and services regarding reproductive and maternal health care and, importantly, a person’s right to make decisions about their own body. Moreover, maternal health and rights, when acknowledged and available, are often times only seen to apply to women, yet unfortunately we find many young girls in similar difficult situations and we cannot deny their realities either.
This blog was written for International Maternal Health Day (#IntlMHDay) and in support of the What women Want Campaign #WhatWomenWant
*The picture at this webpage is for illustrative purposes only and does not represent the person mentioned in the text above.