"I decided to specialise in family planning because I want to help other youths to fulfill their dreams"
Watching nursing officer Mary Benjamin, it’s easy to see why she has chosen this vocation. In a small room crowded with young women at the Marie Stopes Bajaj youth club in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania she takes centre-stage.
At just 25 years old, her empathy for her clients is obvious; she listens as the women speak and often touches them on the arm, reassuring them.
"I decided to specialise in family planning because I want to help other youths to fulfill their dreams," she says.
"I had the dream to be a nurse like my mum, I was so impressed to see her in the family planning service and caring for the women. I said to myself, my mum was helping them, and for me I want to be just like her."
Happy one of the young women Mary has met through her work. She is 18 years old and exudes a confidence well beyond her age.
Happy came to the Marie Stopes Tanzania mobile clinic to have a three year implant fitted. She regularly talks to her friends about contraception and feels confident in her right to decide for herself.
“I’ve never had concerns about family planning,” she tells us. “I feel free to talk about it and happy to talk about it."
“As a woman, I chose a family planning method in order to finish my studies so that I can be a lawyer”
“My advice would be for women to choose a family planning method in order to make their dream to come true.”
Through her work with young people, Mary is acutely aware of the many challenges they face protecting themselves from unintended pregnancy, from the stigma surrounding sex outside marriage to the logistical challenges of reaching a clinic in rural Tanzania.
"It’s all about health education. If you give young people health education, they will understand what to do, at what time and at what point.
"Some of them are too rural to be able to find family planning clinics, so if we can go there and reach them, give them the product there, it helps them.
“My advice for girls living in Tanzania is to fulfill their dreams as they have the right to choose what they want, so education is better…more than anything. If they have an education, they can do anything in this world. It’s all about education and this is where family planning decisions can really help them."