We were sitting in our weekly update meeting this week when a very important question was presented by the CLI Health Program Manager (the big boss), “What are we supposed to call the teens who are entering our Teenage Motherhood Program?” Girls… women…mothers…young women? I know this might seem like a trivial question, but it is one that we have been asking in different forums for a while. Teen marriage is legal in Malawi with parental consent. More than this, it is still encouraged in the rural setting for young women to marry early and begin a family as soon as possible. Even more surprising to us is the fact that many young women choose to drop out of school and begin a family rather than finish secondary school.
So what are we to do? How do you make change in such a huge culturally driven practice that has been going on for generations? Very slowly.
In early 2015, Malawi Parliament officially raised the minimum age of marriage in Malawi to 18. Unfortunately, the Malawi Constitution still maintains that girls and boys ages 15-18 can marry with parental consent. Also, there is nothing that directly prohibits marriage for children under 15 years in the Malawi Constitution, but “discourages” the practice of child marraige (http://www.girlsnotbrides.org/child-marriage/malawi/). In fact, a large portion of the teen mothers (19 years and younger) who deliver their baby at CLI Hospital are married.
Child Legacy Hospital is beginning an adolescent pregnancy support program that will target pregnant teens during the antenatal period. The program will allow for 40 pregnant teens to begin attending antenatal (prenatal) care classes specifically designed for them and their unique situations. Over the last 8 months we have found that many teens that attend antenatal care classes are too intimidated by the older mothers who have had many children to ask questions about the birthing process and newborn care. We hope to empower them through a safe learning environment as well as nurturing emotional support though meeting other young women in similar circumstances.
Each young women will also receive a high protein nutritional supplement that will be made at CLI and provided through their pregnancy and the first 15 months of their infant’s life. Finally, all the mothers (whether married or not) will be encouraged to finish their schooling. Anyyoung women who wishes to go back to school after her child is born will be assisted with money for school uniforms and supplies to go back. The young women and their children will be in the program through 15-months-old because that is the age of last immunization for children in Malawi. Right now, there are only sufficient funds for 40 young women and their babies (about how many teens delivered at CLI in a 3 month period). We pray this program can grow to accommodate more young women and their babies as time goes on.
Speaking about teen moms, the 14 year-old mom that we wrote about in our blog 2 months ago, 10 Days to Save a Life is continuing to follow up every month for evaluations and her infant is healthy and doing great. If you did not hear her story, then take some time later today to read it. Click here to go to the blog post. We are amazed at how God continues to transform her life and the people around her. While it is an amazing story of transformation, she will continue to face many challenges going forward. Take a moment and pray for her and her family today. Her story is a great example of how God can use a Christian medical team to minister to both the physical and spiritual health of one of His children.
Sophia is continuing to grow and is staying pretty healthy. She continues to gain more and more personality with every week and she finally started saying MAMA a couple weeks ago. She is soooo close to crawling. Right now she is doing a lower body drag or an inchworm crawl to get her from point A to point B. She also does a very good splits scoot across the floor a lot. She gets so mad when her ball rolls just out of reach and she has to pull herself across the room to get it.
Another great accomplishment we can brag about is her first teeth. It took 10 months but she finally starting cutting teeth; unfortunately it was 3 at one time. She has two bottom teeth in the middle and her upper right canine! She looks even more like an old woman with that combo.
Again, thanks so much for all your prayers, encouragement, and financial support as we serve. We are currently meeting our monthly fundraising goal, and we are very grateful for all the support that everyone has shown. We will have another financial update next month in our blog and will let you know how we are doing with one-time gifts so far this year.
Please continue to keep us in your prayers this month. Pray for safe travels at the end of the June as we come back to the US for the month of July. We look forward to seeing many of you very soon.
-Jared, Jenny, & Sophia