Background: Disempowerment is both a cause and effect of unplanned pregnancies in young girls and women. An “Empowerment of Disadvantaged Young Mothers” program was implemented between January 2017 and March 2018 in western Viti Levu, Fiji, to improve young mothers’ knowledge of reproductive health, chance of employment, self-reliance and agency.
Aim: To evaluate the outcomes of the “Empowerment of Disadvantaged Young Mothers” program implemented by the Viseisei Sai Health Centre, Lautoka, Fiji.
Methods: This is a mixed method retrospective study using quantitative and qualitative data from project records.
Findings: There were 89 participants in the program who resided across 22 communities. Almost 75% reported not using a contraceptive as the reason for their unplanned pregnancy. Analysis of pre- and post-program assessment found increases in the number of mothers employed (5.6% vs 27.3%; p=<0.001), registered with National Employment Centre (14.7% vs 47%; p=0.002) and accessing a Pap smear (27.3% vs 60.6%; p=0.003). A third of the participants described feeling “motivated”, “empowered”, “inspired” or “increased confidence” to achieve their original career or educational goals as a result of attending the training. Most reported that the workshops had changed their perspective and given them new hope for their future, with a “reduced sense of isolation” in finding a support network.
Conclusion: This empowerment project made substantial increases in the rates of employment and uptake of reproductive health and support services amongst the young mothers, as well as an overall decrease in sense of isolation and improvement in social wellbeing. They felt more “empowered” and “motivated” to make positive changes in their lives to enhance their financial independence and improve quality of life for themselves and their children.