Alexandrine is 26 years old and lives in Port-Au-Prince, Haiti her husband and three children, ages 11, 8 and 4. She became pregnant with her first child at age 15 after she was raped by her school principal. “I was alone, living with my father, and the person who got me pregnant was the principal of my school,” Alexandrine says. “He forced me,” she adds, looking at her hands. When asked whether she reported the rape to the authorities, she says she didn’t at first, explaining, “I didn’t report it to anyone because my father was really – I was really scared of my dad.” “It was my first time,” Alexandrine added.
When Alexandrine finally worked up the courage to tell her father what had happened he did not react well. “My dad told me he would take me to the police station, and if I was lying, in front of the police officers he would kill me. The night before we went to the police station I didn’t lie; I told the truth to my father.” Alexandrine’s father took her to the police station and she reported that the principal had raped her, but as she explains, “when the police officers went to look for the man, he wasn’t there. They couldn’t find him.”
As a form of revenge, because the principal of the school could not be found, Alexandrine’s father refused to pay the school for her to attend, and she was forced to drop out. At that point, Alexandrine left her father to go live with her mother, and she delivered the baby while living there. She wanted to return to school, but her mother had to work as a vendor to support Alexandrine and the baby, so Alexandrine had to stay home with the baby. “I wanted to go back to school, but I didn’t have enough money. Only my father could provide enough money for me to go to school, my mother was helping me with the baby, so she couldn’t help me with school,” she explained.
Alexandrine had her second child when she was 19, adding that the pregnancy was “an accident.” “I didn’t know about Profamil until later,” she added. It was not until after Alexandrine had her third child that she learned about Profamil and the family planning and reproductive health services they offer. “My boyfriend had a cousin who works at Profamil … [She] told me about Profamil: ‘Family planning, you can do it.’ She gave me a card, and my boyfriend a card too, and then I went to the clinic,” Alexandrine explained.
Now Alexandrine has the three-year Jadelle contraceptive implant, which she received from a Profamil clinic, and when asked if she wants more children, she responds emphatically, “No, no!” “Only my husband is working, so providing a lot of things to my children is a big deal …. Sometimes it’s hard to find money to buy their lunches,” Alexandrine adds. When asked how she wants her children’s lives to be different than hers, she says, “I would like their lives to be different, especially the way in which I had my first child,” adding “I never had the chance to finish school. I want them to finish school.”
When asked what piece of advice she would give to other girls and women in Haiti, Alexandrine responded, “They have to plan to have children, before they drop out of school. This is the only advice I can give.” Family planning is “very important because it gives you the power to control when to have children. When you continue to have children, it’s not advantageous of you or the children because you will not be able to provide for so many children,” she added.
Special thanks to Carine Jocelyn, Executive Director, PROFAMIL Haiti for her assistance with this storytelling project.
“I would like their lives to be different, especially the way in which I had my first child. I never had the chance to finish school. I want them to finish school.”