They Carry This Weight Together 

By Paige Bellissimo, MaverickNext Fellow 

Lugging jerry cans heavy with water is all in a day’s work for Kia, but that’s not the only weight she carries.  

Kia’s in-laws have been putting pressure on her – and her husband Salim – to have a child right away.  

Newlywed girls in her rural Ethiopian village often face pressure to prove their fertility quickly. But thanks to a new program Smart Startthe couple now understands the financial pressure adding a baby to their fledgling family would have.  

With the guidance of PSI’s flagship youth-powered sexual and reproductive health program Adolescents 360 (A360), the couple is making a different choice. The 18-year old says with a smile, “I wish to have four children, two boys and two girls.” She glances down for a moment and continues, “But we will wait three years to have our first child.”  

Developed by A360, Smart Start uses financial planning to engage Ethiopian rural girls aged 15-19 and their husbands in planning their futures, positioning contraception as a tool to achieve their goals for economic security and to have a family, whenever they are ready. 

Kia** speaks in a soft tone and thoughtfully searches for the words to describe her vision for her family’s future – a vision she and Salim built together with the help of Smart Start. 

After their marriage, Mimi, the health extension worker serving Kia’s village, came to her house to share Smart Start. Kia asked if she would come back to have the session with her husband. Salim is very supportive of Kia, but she shares, “if I had made the decision without talking to him about it we would have had a quarrel.”  

After the session, Kia and Salim decided to start with the threemonth injection method.  

And they now have the tools they need to talk to Salim’s parents. Kia says that Mimi told her, “the amount of land does not grow with each child you have and will become overcrowded.” Because their family relies on their harvest to provide sustenance, this point made a huge impact.  

By following the plan they mapped out with MimiKia and Salim will have enough resources saved to provide for their first child in three years. They eventually want to save enough money to move to Adama, a nearby town, open a kiosk, and build a house there.  

Smart Start has given Kia the knowledge and resources to plan for having children when she and Salim are in a position to provide a healthy life for each child. Kia and Salim feel confident knowing they have a plan mapped out to realize their personal and financial goals.   

Paige and Kia, together.

**Names changed to protect the subject’s identity 


Paige Bellissimo is a founding Fellow and the 2018 Co-Chair of MaverickNext, a philanthropy accelerator creating a movement of emerging global leaders who are engaged, inspired and changing themselves and the world through strategic investments. She also serves as the co-founder and organizer of the Great Charity Challenge (GCC), an annual philanthropic equestrian-relay event hosted at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center in Wellington, FL that has raised and distributed more than $13.5M to charities serving Palm Beach County since 2010.  

Currently Paige works as a qualitative analyst consulting for economics and financial litigation cases. 

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