A Step in the Rights’ Direction: Advocacy, Negotiation, and Money as Tools for Realising the Right to Education for Pregnant Girls in Sierra Leone During the Ebola Epidemic
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One of the consequences of the Ebola crisis was school closures across the subregion. In Sierra Leone, where the authors were based working for the Irish government, a significant increase in teenage pregnancy was reported during the crisis. This was attributed, in part, to the school closures and, in part, to other issues, such as increases in the vulnerability of girls due to Ebola. Much as this picture was bleak, sometimes in a crisis comes unexpected opportunity. Pregnant girls were, de facto, banned from attending school in Sierra Leone prior to Ebola. However, the Ebola outbreak led to an increased awareness of the Sierra Leonean government leadership of the scale of teenage pregnancy in the country. This led to a new partnership of the government of Sierra Leone with the members of the international community, led by Irish Aid, to provide access to the formal education system for pregnant girls. Fourteen thousand, five hundred girls benefited from this programme in its first year, although significant dilemmas and challenges were also encountered. Lessons include the benefit of international actors working closely with government to identify opportunities on issues of concern and to negotiate improved programmes, and then being adaptable enough to support and fund improved programmes if they emerge.
KeywordsAdolescent girls Education Pregnancy Teenage pregnancy Ebola Discrimination Human rights Sierra Leone Advocacy Ebola virus disease School closures Irish Aid
We would like to acknowledge the work of Gibril Kargbo from Irish Aid on this programme. We are grateful to DFID, UNICEF, and UNFPA for their collaboration on this programme.
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