Being an Advocate for Family Planning Has Changed My Life—and My Future

Advocating for Family Planning Policy

Abou Maimouna Diallo

IntraHealth International | Family Planning Youth Ambassador
Abou Maimouna Diallo, a family planning youth ambassador from Guinea

"The advice I would like to give young people in my country is that they must be sexually responsible by agreeing to keep informed, educate themselves, and follow their peer educators’ advice," writes Abou Maimouna Diallo. Photo courtesy of Abou Maimouna Diallo.

This post originally appeared on IntraHealth's blog, VITAL.

Meet Abou, a youth ambassador in Guinea who knows firsthand the power of contraception—not just for family planning, but for future planning.

When I was in high school, I was going out with a girl. We loved each other a lot, and we had unprotected sex.

One night, when I had left the village for vacation with my parents, she came all the way to see me, to my great surprise. But she was very frustrated and didn’t even greet me. I asked her what was wrong.

She responded, in a very soft, scared voice, that she hadn’t had her period for the last two months.

My heart was pounding.

The next day, she took a pregnancy test—and the test was positive. She began crying incessantly. I gave her the money to get an abortion, but the procedure wasn’t successful. And she and I began the greatest nightmare of our lives.

Her parents kicked her out and sent her to our house. My family was shocked—no one in our family had ever had children outside of marriage. They insulted us, hated us, beat us, and even kicked us out of the family. My own father didn’t even want to see me because I had shamed and dishonored the family, and destroyed our reputation.

In the end, God eased our suffering. My girlfriend delivered a baby girl. I prayed and fasted for three days to thank God.

A few months later, an acquaintance who was the president of the reproductive health and family planning Youth Ambassador Network came with his team to show a video on unintended pregnancy and raise awareness on the causes, consequences, prevention methods, and risk behaviors for unintended pregnancy.

That taught me a lot, and was interesting, given my experience. My sole struggle at the time was to avoid making the same mistake again—but I also wanted to help other young people not fall in the same trap.

That is the reason I became a youth ambassador.

As a youth ambassador, I am aware of the continually rising rates of early and/or unintended pregnancy among youths here in Guinea, and of the low contraceptive prevalence rate and high unmet need for contraception in my country—reflected in the high percentage of young girls who are victims of clandestine abortions and school drop-out following early pregnancies. And so I am extremely proud to:

  • Live as a model of behavior change for reproductive health and family planning.
  • Help mobilize and involve more youths around reproductive health and family planning.
  • Participate in achieving the objectives of Guinea’s family planning coalition’s action plan and its national plan for family planning.

Being a youth ambassador for reproductive health and family planning has changed my life, in that I’ve become more and more the person I dream of being. Young people and adults come to me now for advice and information on reproductive health and family planning.

The advice I would like to give young people in my country is that they must be sexually responsible by agreeing to keep informed, educate themselves, and follow their peer educators’ advice. 

My sister stands out among the many people I’ve advised. She is a 10th-grader. I give her advice from my own experience and on the importance of abstaining or at least using a contraceptive method, but I especially emphasize abstinence and sexual responsibility, and that helps her a lot.

This experience will influence my future in the sense that my experience is only expanding in this area. I dream of being a consultant specializing in reproductive health and family planning, because we have considerable unmet need in this area.

IntraHealth International’s CS4FP Plus project engages young people across the nine francophone West Africa Ouagadougou Partnership countries as Family Planning Youth Ambassadors. So far, it’s trained 92 youth ambassadors like Abou Maimouna Diallo to lead family planning advocacy campaigns to reach in- and out-of-school youth. Youth Ambassadors also advocate to decision-makers to make their priorities heard. The CS4FP Plus initiative is funded by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation and the Dutch Embassy.

Read this post in French.