The Story of Barbra: Restoring Hope and Life Prospects

Barbra and her mother (left) appreciate the support they have received from para social worker Faridah (right).

Like thousands of young people across Uganda, teenager Barbra’s education and daily life have been severely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition to massive learning interruption, the country’s extended, two-year school closures increased the risk of attrition and dropout from school, and also saw spikes in child labor and teenage pregnancy rates (as this report indicates).

Barbra is one of the many adolescent girls whose life was upended, when she became pregnant during this time. “Being pregnant at 13 was not easy,” she says. “I stopped going to school and I stayed at home taking care of my siblings while my mother went to work. I thought my life was over.”

Today, however, she is reclaiming her right to education and a brighter future through comprehensive support that is helping her and her family navigate the multiple challenges of schoolwork, teen motherhood, stigma, and health risks.

Barbra, her mother, and baby enjoy a happy moment together.

On an antenatal visit in 2021 to a local clinic in her Kampala suburb of Namuwongo, Barbra met Faridah, a para social worker trained under the USAID ICYD Activity. Through ICYD, the Bantwana Initiative is helping build the capacity of local organizations and government social work cadres to deliver comprehensive health, education, and social protection services to children and caregivers living with HIV and other vulnerabilities. Faridah enrolled Barbra in the program as an adolescent who would benefit from psychosocial support and other services, including school re-entry, linkage to antenatal care, positive parenting and early childhood development skills, and nutrition and HIV prevention education.

Through regular home visits, Faridah engaged Barbra’s mother and emphasized the importance of continued education to ensure better prospects for Barbra and her child (especially given that the father himself is a teenager and unlikely to be able to support them in any meaningful way). Barbra’s mother and Faridah visited the school administration and successfully negotiated her re-enrollment. After the baby was born in 2022, Barbra returned to school, leaving her baby under the care of her mother, who operates a fresh food stall in Namuwongo market to support her family and pay for school fees.

With her mother’s support and her own determination, Barbra is now enrolled in secondary school, having obtained high marks in her final year of primary education.

“Maths and biology are my favorite subjects and when I grow up, I want to be a doctor,” Barbra declares.