Every normal parent has a dream about the children he or she has. In many cases, you can be sure, your parents want you to succeed in life even more than them, and reach the highest level you can. Bringing up a family, responsibly, is an uphill task. And when we have teenagers, young adults beginning to assert themselves, and become their own person, often parents are excited, but sometimes they end up in tears.
Think of this case of girl ‘Y’. She is 17 years old. Her parents took her to the best private schools from the nursery to high school. Out of the blues, her mother learns that she is pregnant. The mother is so angry. When she tells her husband, that is the girls’ father, he did not say anything. He just locked himself in the bedroom for almost a day.
It was a really difficult moment for the mother. It was one of the biggest tests of her close-knit and happy family life. The man of the house had always dreamt of his only daughter getting the best education in life, and “making it.” Growing up, he had seen many girls’ lives ruined after they were married early, and their dreams of achievement ending in vain.
Such scenarios are really difficult for any parent. The teenage girl ‘Y’ is not alone. According to a recent media report, out of 1,000 teenage girls, about 132 of them get pregnant at the age of 15 and 19 years. It is great that the government in collaboration with various stakeholders “has scaled adolescent and youth-friendly services.” Adolescence outreach services are conducted in different regions.
Young people all over the world face complex problems and Tanzania is no exception. Teenage girls and boys, have to contend with their biological changes, as maturity beckon. Unless they are ingrained with values, for example, being told that, sex before marriage is wrong, they get themselves in dangerous situations-- teen pregnancy, drugs, and alcoholism, among other dangerous teenage behaviours.
There are underage girls who involve themselves in promiscuity willingly, though it is a crime, but there are others who are raped. In the case of girl ‘Y’, it was a family friend who had raped her.
Someone the parents would never have thought he would harm anyone in the family. Two months ago, they had left the house for an assignment out of town, and felt safe, to have the family friend in the guests’ room, and their daughter in the main house.
The girl had been threatened in case she tells the truth that she would be killed. It was only after her father assured her that, he was not going to judge her and she would protect her, and she would always be close to his heart that she agreed to tell the truth. Text messages from the man threatening the young girl were some of the evidence. Otherwise, he could have claimed it was consent.
That is just the tip of the iceberg. The fact that the UN saw it fit to have the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, it tells a lot. It means violence against women which includes rape remains rampant.
In our patriarchal society, we talk so much about teenage pregnancies and what should be done to them. We talk less about those who make them pregnant and what should be done to them. The conversation and sex education need to change.
We need to educate our boys and girls equally about being responsible for their own lives, and so we’ll all contribute in making the world a better place for everyone to live. This will eventually enable both boy and girl teenagers reach their full potentials.
Saumu Jumanne is an Assistant Lecturer, Dar es Salaam University College of Education (DUCE)