The discrimination against pregnant girls and the ban on them attending school in Sierra Leone has been ended. The discrimination made many girls who were eager to continue their education, even with their pregnancy, give up because they were not allowed within the four walls of a school.
The ban, which had been in place for over five years, was in breach of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights. Therefore the Sierra Leonean NGO WAVES, in collaboration with Equality Now, IHRDA and Amnesty International, filed a lawsuit to end the discrimination against pregnant schoolgirls. It was noted that after the ban came into effect in 2015, over 3,000 girls were kept out of school, evidence that the ban trampled on the rights of thousands of girls in Sierra Leone.
The court ordered the Ministry of Education to lift the ban with immediate effect and cause all those affected to return to school. The court also directed the ministry to take necessary actions to reduce the stigmatisation of pregnant girls, and integrate sexual and reproductive health education into the school curriculum.
The NGOs who filed the lawsuit called on the African Union to help to facilitate a coordinated and comprehensive approach to protect the right to education for pregnant girls and young mothers in all countries where pregnant girls are being marginalised. They added that governments should only create plans and implement policies that are human rights compliant. The NGOs demanded policy guidelines that ensures pregnant schoolgirls receive every support, encouragement and opportunity to continue with their studies even after they have put to bed.
The NGOs argued that for any society to develop, everyone must have equal rights to education, no matter the circumstances or conditions in which they find themselves. They stated that every girl child deserves access to education whether pregnant or a nursing mother, and that suspending their rights to education is an infringement on their human rights. The NGOs admonished all citizens to support and encourage pregnant girls seeking to further their education.
Source: Amnesty International UK
Photo source: Julien Lagarde