Who am I? Where am I?


“Who am I? Where am I?” Experiences of married young women in a slum in Islamabad, Pakistan
Saima Hamid email, Eva Johansson email and Birgitta Rubenson email
BMC Public Health 2009, 9:265doi:10.1186/1471-2458-9-265

Background

In Pakistan, 16% of the women aged 15-19 years are married. Many get married shortly after they attain menarche. This study explores the preparedness for and actual experiences of married life (inter-spousal relationship, sexual activity and pregnancy) among adolescent women.

Methods

Among married adolescent women residing in a slum of Islamabad ten were selected with the help of a community health worker and interviewed qualitatively till saturation was reached. They were interviewed three times at different occasions. Narrative structuring was used to explore how the participants represented their background, social situation, decision making and spousal communication and how they explained, understood and managed married life and bore children.

Results

Two categories identifying the respondents as either submissive-accepting or submissive-victims emerged. The married young women who belonged to the accepting group lived under compromised conditions but described themselves as satisfied with their situation. They were older than the other group identifying themselves as victims. However, none of the respondents felt prepared for marriage. Women belonging to the victimized group experienced physical and verbal abuse for their inability to cope with the duties of a wife, caretaker of the home and bearer of children. Their situation was compounded by the power dynamics within the household.

Conclusion

Knowledge about sexuality could prepare them better for the future life and give them more control of their fertility. Adolescent development and life skills education need to be addressed at a national level. There is need for innovative interventions to reach out and provide support to young women in disadvantaged homes.

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