I’m Khadija and I’m 1 of 8 children born to an amazing father and a loving mother. My father had a job and gave us all a comfortable life. But the day he died the life I knew came to an end.
In my country, a widow doesn’t have the right to stay in her husband’s home. So my uncles forced us to leave the house and we had to move to a small plot in my mother’s family’s village. I stayed home from school for a month to help my family make bricks to build a new home. Our lives became about day-to-day survival.
But no matter how tired or hungry I was, I always worked hard at school. I told myself to get my head down and focus. Every free moment I had between farming and cleaning the house, I studied for the final exams to pass into secondary school. My hard work paid off when I passed my entrance exams with really good marks. But we couldn’t afford the school fees. I waited a full year to take the exams again in the hopes that I would receive a scholarship for the girls’ boarding school – and I did!
One day my classmates convinced me to go to the beach. That’s when I met a really nice guy. After that day we began talking and eventually he asked me to be his girlfriend. I agreed and we became a couple! He persuaded me to have sex with him and a few months later I became pregnant.
Nobody had ever talked to me about sex before. It was very confusing. I didn’t even know what protection was or how to use it, I just trusted him to keep me safe. Finding out I was pregnant was hard. My mother was so upset and I was too. I had plans to finish my education but my pregnancy meant I lost my scholarship.
When I gave birth to my baby boy I was filled with love and happy that I’d brought a new life into the world. Life was still hard but we got by. After almost a year a man showed up at our house – he told me that he worked for an AIDS Support Organisation that helped young, single mothers return to school and get an education.
He told me that to qualify I would have to work as a peer educator and tell other girls my story so they could learn from me and not be afraid to be strong and speak up when they don’t want to do something. I said “Yes!” I was grateful for the chance to continue my education and help other girls like me.
My son is now 3 years old. I only have 2 years left before I graduate from high school. I have been through so much, but my story isn’t over yet. Leaving school and having a baby was just one chapter in my life. I know if I continue to work hard and never give up I can overcome any obstacle.
Even though people might think negative things about me for having a baby early, I am proud of myself for being a role model to other girls. I think it’s important that I encourage those who also have children to go back to school, and help other girls to avoid getting pregnant too young.