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Defying stigma in bustling Lusaka

Esther's story

Watch Esther's story

"I always dreamed of being a professional hockey player, being a star."

At the age of 16, Esther was a top academic student at her school in Lusaka and a talented hockey player with her heart set on going professional. But like so many young girls around the world, Esther had her world shaken and her dreams shattered by an unintended pregnancy.

Esther and her team were training for a big championship when her coach called her into a room. They had noticed a change in her and wanted her to take a pregnancy test. The test was positive.

“I remember I cried the whole day. I didn’t know what the future held for me after I gave birth. Whether people are going to accept me in society. Whether my friends are going to accept me back. How am I going to be able to go back to school? And how am I going to continue playing hockey?”

At the end of the term, Esther’s grades had plummeted, and she was no longer at the top of the class.

“I tried to pick myself up, tried to focus, tried to work hard at school. But it wasn’t as it was before, it was hard.”

I remember I cried the whole day. I didn’t know what the future held for me.

“My dad was upset, he didn’t talk to me, he was just looking at me. One day he called me, and I apologised to him. I told him, ‘I’m not ready for marriage, I’m only 16, I want to go back to school.’”

Thanks to the support from her family, friends and hockey team, Esther was able to go back to school one year after giving birth to her daughter.

“When I got pregnant, it wasn’t easy, but I managed to pull through because of my family, my parents were very supportive. But a girl who doesn’t have the support I had, I wouldn’t want her to go through that.”

When I got pregnant, it wasn’t easy, but I managed to pull through because of my family, my parents were very supportive. But a girl who doesn’t have the support I had, I wouldn’t want her to go through that.

The myths, misconceptions and stigma surrounding contraception in Zambia led Esther to believe that it was only for married women.

“I thought that contraceptives could give you cancer. That it would make you unable to have children in the future. That the implant can travel in your body, pierce your heart and kill you.”

“I mean I was scared. Why would I want that in my body?”

The first time Esther heard about contraception for young people was when Marie Stopes Zambia came to the sports centre where she trained.

“They explained about contraceptives, how they work, how they help young women and girls, and I thought: ‘Oh, why didn’t I know about this earlier?’”

I want to help other girls and young women who want someone to talk to, someone who will listen to them

Today, Esther is playing hockey for the national team and studying at university.

“I’m studying psychosocial counselling because of my past. Because I want to help other girls and young women who want someone to talk to, someone who will listen to them, not judge them, someone who can help them find solutions to their problems.”

In 2017, she started working for Marie Stopes Zambia as a teen connector in the sports centre where she trains.

“We go in the fields and tell young women and girls about contraceptives and invite them to our centre and try to help them. We change their misconceptions about contraception and explain how it can help them achieve their dreams.”

No More Fairy Tales

Esther's story is featured in a graphic novel, which features four young people from East Africa, West Africa and Asia, who have been inspired by their own experiences of unintended pregnancy to fight the stigma and explode the myths around contraception and sex and help other young people avoid the same fate. No More Fairy Tales highlights the many challenges that millions of adolescents worldwide face in accessing contraception, and how a new generation of young people are saying enough is enough.

No More Fairy Tales

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