If She Had Only Known

Betty Gebre - Ecuador

February 5, 2013

As a younger girl she watched telenovelas because that was what her mother and her older sister always watched.  When she saw half-naked models in the newspapers, billboards, and on her father’s motorcycle she would stop to stare and idolize for that was what everyone did. When she was thirteen years old puberty had come. She was no longer considered a girl, but had now stepped into the world of womanhood: she started to develop breasts, curves, a menstrual cycle, insecurities, curiosities, and emotions.

Although she did not fully appreciate the changes of her body, she accepted that, like every woman, she would be “sick” – as her mother called it — every month. She could handle the changes of her physical body — she even liked her developing breasts and curves. What she found the most difficult to comprehend was her newfound insecurities, curiosities and emotions. Her mother told her that the changes of her physical body were normal, but she had not mentioned anything about her shifting mind. Now, she no longer wanted to watch telenovelas just because they were playing, but she craved them and she found herself not only idolizing the half-naked models she always saw, but now she wanted to look like them. For her, they resembled what it meant to be “sexy” and “desired.” The couples she would see being affectionate did not help ease her questions, but made her more confused.

She wondered if only she felt this way, but found comfort when she learned that her friends shared her curiosities. Although her friends like her understood nothing about the causes for their new emotions, she was just happy to know she was not alone and that she had someone to talk to.  Then he came into her life, her first novio. He was sweet, kind and gave her compliments about her body. She felt like she was living in her own telenovela. Sure her mother did not allow her to have a novio, but the girls in the telenovelas had novios and they seemed happy and he, she thought, made her happy.

After a month of dating she started to get physical with him. It was new for her, but that was what couples on the telenovelas did. Soon after, she started to have sex with him — it was the next step, “Right?” she thought. Condoms and birth control were foreign words to her; she did not know what they were. She had never had education about sex. For her, she was only doing what she felt and believed was normal.

Normal did not seem worth it when three months after losing her virginity, she still had not gotten “sick.” She did not have sex education, but she knew what this meant. Of course she was sad and scared, for she had not expected to be a mother at sixteen, when she had not yet finished high school. To avoid the scolding of her small community, she quickly married her boyfriend before her pregnancy could show.

She moved out of her parents’ house and moved into a house with the only boy she had ever kissed. She let go of her dream of education. She had no time — her job was now to take care of the house, her two kids and her husband. And what would her husband say to her spending her time with books and not with her responsibility at home? Education, for her, was now out of the question.


Reference: It’s estimated that every day, two adolescents become pregnant in the province of Chimborazo (one of the 24 provinces in Ecuador) —a mountainous area that is home to nearly half a million people.  -UNPF (United Nations Population Funds)

Betty Gebre