Veronica, a bright 15-year-old student who lives in Mangwani Village in Malawi loves going to school. She loves waking up to the warm Malawian sun in the mornings, pulling on her cornflower blue school uniform, and hurrying toward a day full of learning and connecting with her friends.
When Veronica discovered that she was pregnant, she was scared of becoming a mother, of the community knowing her shame, and of being forced to drop out of school. Her plan to continue her education was disappearing before her eyes.
Enala, Veronica’s mom, was also worried. She felt the eyes of the community on her because of the stigma attached to teen pregnancy and considered throwing her daughter out of the family home. Veronica felt helpless and overwhelmed.
Many young girls around the world are forced to drop out of school when they become pregnant. They might be encouraged to marry at an early age due to social and cultural customs, or just have to remain home to care for their babies. Without an education, many of these girls don’t have the opportunity to live healthy, empowered lives. Their ability to earn a living, provide for their families, make healthy decisions and contribute to the overall development of their communities and countries is taken away from them.
Things started to feel more hopeful when Veronica’s parents were approached by the local village education committee (VEC). The VEC is central to communicating the importance of education to parents and guardians.
Village education committees, supported by PWS&D’s local partner Ekwendeni Hospital AIDS Program (EHAP), help ensure students who have dropped out of school for various reasons, including pregnancy, are checked on and encouraged to return to school.
With encouragement from the VEC, Veronica was able to continue attending school after giving birth to her daughter. Her mother was relieved to find support from the community and assisted Veronica’s return to school by looking after her granddaughter.
Now, Veronica knows that she will have a brighter future. Returning to school, has opened many doors to a better life for her and her daughter. Veronica is gaining tools to help break cycles of poverty and contribute to the development of her village and country. While she is still figuring out how to adapt to her new role as a mother and a student, Veronica is excited about the future.