Story of Change: Improving young people’s access to sexual and reproductive health services in Fiji

Planned pregnancies spaced between two or more years would result in healthier babies and fewer medical problems for a mother. Planning for a child will help you avoid the social, medical, and financial problems that are associated with raising a child. There are many birth control methods and techniques available and can be accessed at all MSP clinics, free of charge. MSP works to strengthen access to quality integrated sexual and reproductive health (SRH) services in the country.

Since MSP’s inception in 2010, we have seen significant results in women accessing our services. A glaring example would be a touching story of a 19-year-old, single mother who was empowered, and therefore demonstrating that potentially many more young people can benefit from accessing these essential services.  

‘My dream is to be able to depend on myself’ 

As a child growing up in the greater Suva area, there were more opportunities for Amelia (not her real name). She was doing well at school and on completing primary level, gained a pass for secondary school. Unfortunately, her secondary school life was short lived because her parents could not afford her school fees. She was devastated. “I wanted to continue with school but couldn’t, so I stayed at home for a whole year,” she says. “I felt bad about this but I had no choice.” She helped with the housework, but she felt her stepfather (at that time) was abusive towards her and this prompted her to make alternative plans. After a year, I met a man, Tomasi, (not his real name) and we decided to get intimate,” Amelia says. “I didn’t like staying at home because I was not going to school, so running away from home and living with him was the solution to my problems. This man was my ‘rescue’.” 

Tomasi’s parents paid for Amelia’s education and she studied at a prominent university in Suva, majoring in hospitality and tourism, as this was her passion. Tomasi was also a student at the same university but eventually dropped out of school. 

Tomasi and Amelia never used protection whilst having sex because Tomasi did not support the idea of using condoms. “So, we never used any,” she says. “Two months after I enrolled into college, I was pregnant. When I told him, he said it couldn’t be his and he left me without saying goodbye.” His reaction devastated her, but worse was yet to come. “His parents took me back to my parents and asked them for forgiveness, asking them to take me back. I wanted to ask, why do I need forgiveness?”. Having a child to support without an income has proved difficult for Amelia. She had suicidal thoughts and she continued to say that “I’m seeing my life go downhill because my child is another burden.” Amelia’s family took her back with open arms and 9 months later she gave birth to a healthy baby girl. 

When the MSP team visited her village, Amelia was very interested in the awareness sessions and decided to get a Jadelle insertion (contraceptive implant). This is a long-term family planning method (up to five years). She has considered this in the past but was never confident enough to visit the health facility to get it done. “The presentation from MSP was very detailed and this gave me the confidence I never had. Her child is now 6 months old. Armed with this confidence and her newly gained knowledge of sexual and reproductive health, Amelia now reaches out to other youngsters who find themselves in her position. “I have been helping to educate other girls. I teach them about family planning, how to use condoms and about other methods of contraception,” she says. She also encourages them to visit MSP to access services. With the support of MSP and her immediate family, Amelia can see a new beginning for herself. “I’m happy to be on family planning. She now envisions a brighter future for herself and her child.  My dream is to return to school once my baby girl is bigger and be able to depend on myself. Now, I feel like my dreams will be achieved,” she says.

Note: Amelia and Tomasi are fictional names used to protect the identity of the client.