Radio that tackles stigma in Sierra Leone

Programme manager, BBC Media Action in Sierra Leone

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BBC Media Action Sierra Leone interviewee Agnes Yanguba. Voice of Women radio March 2014

Teenage pregnancy is a major challenge in rural Sierra Leone. The shame associated with pregnancy outside of marriage makes it daunting for the parents of pregnant teenage girls and others to discuss the issue in public.

But Skirt n' Trosis (Skirt and Trousers) – a radio programme that aims to empower women - is changing this. With support from BBC Media Action and funding from the UK’s Foreign & Commonwealth Office, partner radio station Voice of Women – which broadcasts from Mattru Jong, a town in Sierra Leone’s south - is producing this new programme and giving people the space to tackle the issue. 

Lifting the lid on stigma

Agnes Yanguba is a school teacher in Mattru Jong. Like many other rural women in the country, she was faced with a dilemma: abandon her pregnant teenage daughter to an uncertain future – as many parents do - or support her despite the shame surrounding teenage pregnancy.

She opted for the latter.

In an interview for Skirt n' Trosis, Agnes quoted a popular saying, "there isn't a dustbin in which to dump a bad child" – meaning you don't give up on your child because he or she has done something wrong.

And she called on other parents to stand by their daughters during those difficult moments. For Agnes, it's wasn’t just about supporting her child. It was an opportunity to turn her life round. Today, she feels vindicated. Her daughter is back in school, has matured and is fully focused on her academic work. Her future looks bright.

In rural Sierra Leone, it's not common for parents to discuss their teenage daughter's pregnancy – and certainly not on the radio. For most teenagers, pregnancy ushers in the beginning of a new life: one of constant struggle to make ends meet coupled with derision from society.

Kicking off the debate

Skirt n' Trosis is kicking off the debate and getting everybody talking. Agnes and her daughter’s story is a powerful one - one that strikes at the heart of the way parents and society perceive teenage pregnancy: the courage and commitment to stand by pregnant teenagers and provide them the chance to shape their lives.

It's a story that has the potential to challenge social norms in rural Sierra Leone. And there may be many others like it out there.

Related links

BBC - Media Action - Where we work - Africa - Sierra Leone

BBC Media Action – Working with women and girls

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