By Sallu Kamuskay
Juju Jeks was pregnant at a young age of 15 years. She endured a difficult childhood experience. The challenges Juju Jeks encountered during the pregnancy had a terrible impact on her wellbeing and family. But despite the shock of her situation, Juju Jeks never lost hope. She started on a journey of recovery, studying and working for a better future. After giving birth, she returned to school to continue with her studies. Juju Jeks has graduated from university and she is now an accomplished Multimedia Entrepreneur, Actress, and a Strong Girl who defied all odds to become a change maker. She is among the leading social media influencers in her country –Sierra Leone and the co-founder and CEO of Tik Tok Stars in Sierra Leone.
Growing up in a local community in Freetown, Juju Jeks saw her friends and people around her lose their futures to child marriage and teenage pregnancy. In her country, many girls —exposed to risk, shackled by poverty, underdevelopment, and held back by gender inequalities and traditional barriers— never received an education and are unable to pursue their dreams.
Juju Jeks was an innocent teenager, growing up happily in Freetown with her hard working parents, older brothers and other relatives. School was going well and she was ambitious and determined to make difference in this world. Her whole world was her family, and friends. But Juju Jeks had her world changed when she learned she was pregnant, at aged 15. Juju Jeks said she only became aware about her pregnancy during a school lesson. Pregnancy came as a total shock to Juju Jeks and her parents; she had no idea about contraception and abortion. Like many children in Africa or across the world, Juju Jeks had no one to speak to about sex education as her parents are very committed to tradition and religious beliefs. ‘’I know I was young to be having sex but I wasn’t alone – most of my crowd of friends were in relationships and having sex, and I had been with my boyfriend in the same community who is also a teenager for some months. It was a huge pressure or ultimatum to either prove my love for him or he ends the relationship. I did not want to lose him, I loved him so much and so I had no option but to give in’’ Juju Jeks tells Salone Messenger of the difficult situation she was trapped in.
COPING WITH TEENAGE PREGNANCY.
Most of the criticism and blame game are still aimed at young girls, whereas boys are almost expected to want to have sex freely – and certainly aren’t considered to have wrecked their lives if they father a child. Girls are seen as cheap and out of control, spoken about negatively in the community in the same hushed breath reserved for discussing failures in society, and certainly seen as running wild, with no sense of responsibility and accountability. ‘’I was young, but I wasn’t irresponsible. My parents provided all the required support and I was living a good life in a beautiful house. But it is also a challenge for our society and our boys who otherwise lack any parental control or mentorship and are out there to prey on innocent girls’’, Juju Jeks stated.
Juju Jeks described how she was upset, depressed by the gossip put about by her community that she was young to be pregnant. She said she was saddened some people wanted to be nasty. ‘’If I’d had the option, I would never have got pregnant. Although I was worried I wouldn’t be good enough, I would try with the support of my family. At the end, my Mum, Dad, my brothers and other relatives were thrilled I’d decided to keep my daughter and have always supported that decision, in many ways. Looking back, I have no regret and I am grateful to God for keeping me strong and being able to progress in life. I am lucky but I am not sure other young girls would be lucky and so I would say wait and don’t allow misguided boys or selfish adults to impregnate you and risk your future. I am no longer in a relationship with the teenage boy who impregnated me – we separated and so there was no point in making all the sacrifice for him. He is no longer there’’. Juju Jeks advices young girls.
BACK TO SCHOOL.
Going back to school was hard for Juju Jeks. She wanted to be the best student in her school but she quickly became aware of how the community, friends and teachers’ perceptions of her had changed. ‘’Some were supportive and encouraging and others just believed that there is no future for me – that I had a had a bright future and thrown it away. It was then that I understood how bad the general perception is of teenage mums and unplanned pregnancy. I think both our girls and boys need equal support and guidance. Our young people have to be careful. Don’t sacrifice your future”, Juju Jeks encourages teenagers and communities to take positive action.
Juju Jeks had her primary education at the prestigious Mereweather private school in Freetown and secondary school education at the St Joseph’s Convent secondary school in Freetown and Methodist Girls High School in Freetown. After graduating from high school, she enrolled at Njala University of Sierra Leone to pursue a degree in Social Work. In 2022, she graduated from the university, with a BSc Hons in Social Work Degree. Her interest in social work was informed by her personal experience, as she wanted to be a change maker and to help contribute to addressing issues affecting girls and local communities.
Juju Jeks has been selected for the Commonwealth Global mentoring programme, with a view to explore opportunities to study for a Master’s degree, and to also pursue her acting career.
JUJU JEKS AS AN ACTRESS AND CHANGE MAKER.
Juju Jeks resolved at a young age to become an actress and change maker. As a student, she took part in amateur plays and she has been featured in movie series in the country. Along with her film career, she promotes humanitarian causes and is vocal about girls and women’s empowerment, working to create a better future for girls like herself across the African continent and the world at large through education, mentoring and multimedia technologies for social change.
Juju Jeks is a National Youth Service Corp (NYSC). She abandoned comfort zones to join the NYSC, and spent weeks in a training camp. She has been certified by the Government of Sierra Leone’s youth programme as a National Youth Service Corp, recognising her as a Youth Ambassador. Juju Jeks has also joined the Wave Alliance in Sierra Leone– an alliance of community organisations that is providing safe spaces, caring mentors, and a provision of weekly Surf Therapy sessions. The programme gives young people skills to cope with stress, regulate behaviour, build healing relationships, and make positive life choices.
JUJU JEKS AS AN ENTREPRENEUR AND SOCIAL MEDIA INFLUENCER.
The Sierra Leonean-born multimedia entrepreneur was recently recognised by the Commonwealth Global platform, as an emerging business leader and change maker. Juju Jeks is the Founder of Juju Graphic Designs and Juju Jeks Multimedia, a network that empowers other young leaders, entrepreneurs, and major brands by creating and distributing contents and stories to multimedia outlets in Sierra Leone and abroad. Juju Jeks is co-founder and CEO of Tik Tok Stars Association in Sierra Leone. Ltd. Juju Jeks is one of the leading Tik Tok Stars, massive followers Juju Jeks is a multi-award-winning changer maker, actress and blogger. The 26-year-old is behind some of the most successful social-media campaign strategies for some big brands and entertainment projects in her country.