Women's Reproductive Health

Mozambique: When Motherhood is the Only Way Out

What Happens When a Woman who is Given Away in Marriage Cannot Conceive?

Mozambique: When Motherhood is the Only Way Out
An expecting mother and nurse in a maternity ward in Mozambique

Mozambique has a large population of young people who face unique challenges when it comes to employment and education, as well as sexual and reproductive health. Below is the story of a 25-year-old woman from Mozambique, who struggled to meet expectations around having a family.

Sonia (not her real name) comes from a very poor background. Both of her parents died during the civil war in Mozambique, which lasted for 16 years. During the civil war, many Mozambicans, including Sonia, were not able to get an education. Thus, the only way for girls like Sonia to become self-sufficient was to accept an early, arranged marriage.

Sonia was given away to marry an older man whom she did not love, but as an illiterate and poor orphan, she had no say in the matter. At the same time, she was the bread winner for her family, and she thought that by getting married, the family’s standard of living would improve because her husband would supply food for her siblings.

When Sonia got married, the general expectation was that she would be pregnant within two or three months. But Sonia did not conceive for five years. Because of this she suffered discrimination and abuse at the hands of her husband and his two other wives, who were able to have children.

Sonia was taken by her husband and her relatives to many traditional healers to find out why she was not able to get pregnant. Finally, she was brought to a hospital where physicians discovered that she needed an operation in order to conceive. Sonia underwent the treatment at the hospital and after a year she was pregnant with twins.  She was 30 years old.

Sadly, two days before the twins were born, their father was killed in a car accident.

After this tragic event, Sonia was forced to go back to live with her relatives since she did not have any way to take care of her twins. Her husband had left everything to his other wives. Sonia and her children suffered greatly, since she did not have the necessary skills for a job.

Finally, Sonia was hired by a pastor of the United Methodist Church as a domestic worker. She was able to take good care of her children, who are now going to primary school.

Addressing the Needs of Young People

The Mozambican government, together with Christian churches, is trying to make positive strides in addressing the sexual and reproductive health rights and needs of young people. While progress is made at the policy level, the increased demand for services is not yet met. In many Mozambican families, discussing sexual and reproductive health topics with adolescents is taboo. There is thus a real need for services outside of the family.

The lack of employment and education opportunities in Mozambique, along with strong social and cultural influence, contribute in many cases to early,  often unprotected sexual activity.

This puts youth at risk of several sexual and reproductive health-related illnesses and early pregnancy. Many drop out of school, suffering severe social stigma for dishonoring their families, and many contract HIV. Often young women choose to abort, but as terminations are illegal, they risk health complications due to illegal abortions.

United Methodist Women’s Work

In September 2014, United Methodist Women in Mozambique in partnership with the Maternal and Child Health Integrated Program (MCHIP) of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) organized a two-day workshop on prevention and treatment of fistula and a variety of women’s health topics, including prenatal care, family planning and treatment of breast cancer. Through this event, women of Mozambique received the training to become trainers themselves on health matters in their communities. The workshop sought to catalyze a process of transformation on women’s and girls’ health in the county.

This workshop was supported by the Mission Giving of United Methodist Women members. Through their generosity, United Methodist Women members help empower and improve the lives of women, youth and children in the United States and around the world.

Posted or updated: 11/18/2014 11:00:00 PM
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Learn More:

*In Mozambique, United Methodist Women and USAID Partner to Address Fistula

*Visit our Maternal and Child Health page

*Read more Maternal and Child Health stories

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