Target: Ernest Bai Koroma, President of Sierra Leone
Goal: Prevent pregnant girls from being denied educational opportunities and ensure that girls have access to crucial health services related to sexuality and pregnancy.
Recent reports from Sierra Leone indicate that officials in the country may be considering a move that will bar pregnant girls from taking the Basic Education Certificate Examination (BECE), which is the necessary gateway to higher education in the country. Such a move would constitute discrimination and would violate girls’ right to an education. Sign the petition urging the president to publicly confirm that pregnant girls will not be prohibited from taking the BECE, and demand that girls be provided with necessary health services related to sexuality and pregnancy.
The potential ban on girls taking the BECE comes as schools in Sierra Leone prepare to reopen after a months-long closure due to the Ebola outbreak. During the outbreak, there was a reported rise in sexual violence, and girls and women had little access to reproductive and contraceptive health services given that the healthcare system was swamped with Ebola cases. There are also reports that many girls and women were pressured into having sex in exchange for food or supplies during the quarantine.
Sierra Leone’s teen pregnancy rate was already high prior to the Ebola outbreak; according to official statistics published in 2013, 28 percent of girls between the ages of 15 and 19 were pregnant or had already given birth. Denying pregnant girls the right to an education would put a large portion of the population at a severe and senseless disadvantage and would violate a number of international human rights standards. Sign the petition and ensure that girls in Sierra Leone are allowed to pursue their educations unfettered by arbitrary restrictions.
I am writing in reference to numerous reports that Sierra Leone plans to deny pregnant girls the opportunity to take the Basic Education Certificate Examination (BECE). Such a move would constitute a gross violation of the girls’ right to an education, and I implore you to immediately and publicly confirm that the BECE will be open to all students, whether they are pregnant or not.
During the past several months, the Ebola crisis has overwhelmed health services, leaving women and girls with very few resources when it comes to their sexual and reproductive health. Access to contraceptives, including emergency contraceptives that would be sought in cases of rape, has been limited. In addition, there are reports of an increase in sexual violence during the quarantine, and other reports suggest that girls have been increasingly pressured to trade sex for food and supplies as the economic situation remains grim.
Denying pregnant girls the right to an education is discriminatory and violates a number of international human rights standards, including those set out in the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child, to which Sierra Leone is a state party. I implore you to ensure that all girls have access to both the education and the reproductive and sexual health services they may require or desire.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: Jarmoluk via Pixabay