The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) estimates that every day in developing countries, 20,000 girls under the age of 18 give birth. Those are 7.3 million births a year. In Tanzania, teenage pregnancies, particularly those happening while the girls are still studying, are often associated with social situations.
Low education and poverty on the part parents have been cited as one of the major causes of teenage motherhood. Additionally, teenage pregnancy in developed countries usually carries with it social stigma. There is therefore a serious need to enlighten young girls on the essence of ensuring they don’t succumb to behaviour that could render them pregnant when they are far from ready for it.
A story appearing in yesterday’s edition of The Citizen quotes a district official in Rungwe, who reveals that 66 schoolgirls fell pregnant between July and September this year. This is shocking and reminds us of the unfinished business of checking the problem.
While acknowledging what is being done to curb pregnancy in teens, we would like to highlight the importance of stepping up these efforts. The latest Tanzania HIV/Aids and Malaria Indicator Survey conducted in 2011-2012 found that 2.7 per cent of teenage girls were HIV-positive.
That is why we are gravely concerned that these young girls were involved in early and unsafe sex, exposing themselves, not only to unplanned pregnancy, but to HIV as well.
Apart from health risks, the growing trend is compromising Tanzanian customs and traditions that prohibit pre-marital sex. Every society in the world has its values which must be upheld. Ours isn’t an exception.
We all know that teen pregnancies have been shuttering dreams of hundreds of young girls who are forced out of school prematurely.
Checking the problem will ultimately ensure every child, be them male or female, will get the opportunity to achieve their educational and ultimately, career dreams.