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Joyful – Sierra Leone

My friends call me Joyful. I just turned 18. I hope to become the first female pilot in Sierra Leone someday. 

I come from a large family of 13. We didn’t have much growing up. My mother was and has been the sole provider in our family, single-handedly taking care of my two sisters, two brothers, two cousins, my grandmother, grandfather, two aunties, two uncles and myself. 

As the second born child and first-born daughter in the family, life was really hard for me. I often didn’t have lunch money or fare to cover my transport expenses to school because my mommy was barely making enough money to support the family. 

By the time I was 15, life had become even harder for me and then I met *Kadie. He was studying in a neighbouring school and would help me with money for my lunch and transport, which I wasn’t getting back home. Before long, Kadie and I started dating. Until I got pregnant.

I didn’t even know that I could get pregnant at 16.

When I told Kadie that I was pregnant, he abandoned me and did not want anything to do with me. I was petrified. I hid the pregnancy from my mommy but then one day, one of our neighbours found out that I was pregnant and told her. 

I stopped going to school 

My mother was very cross with me. She kicked me out of the house and didn’t want anything to do with me. Then began my life outside of the comfort of my family. I had already stopped going to school at this point.

After about three days without food or shelter, I went to my friend and begged her for help. Luckily, she agreed to house me temporarily and lent me some money which I used it to start my pepper business. 

After a little while, my mother came looking for me and invited me back home. I was overjoyed by the invite because it meant that my mother was opening up her arms for me, regardless of my pregnancy. She supported me in my business selling pepper at the market. 

Eventually, I gave birth to my daughter but she lost her life during delivery. She didn’t make it. 

I want to become a pilot, but this ban is stopping me

Every day, I pray and wish that the government would support girls like me by allowing us to go back to school without any limitation. My main motivation has always been to become a pilot. Going back to school would mean I still have a chance. 

I can’t become a pilot without studying; I hope that the ban is lifted.

I am also lucky to have Madam K in my life because she has stood by us, mentored us, cried with us and given us food when things were particularly hard. It’s not easy for her because we’re very many but she has been a pillar of hope for me and others who are like me.

I will keep praying for another chance to go back to school. 

UPDATE: In March 2020, Sierra Leone lifted the ban on pregnant girls attending school.