Teen Pregnancy is Fueled by 4 main factors in Sierra Leone
“If adolescent pregnancy prevention is to become a priority, then our strategy, as advocates, must contain two key elements: civic engagement and education.”– Jane Fonda
In Sierra Leone 85% of girls and women 15-24 had their first sexual experience with a partner 10 or more years older; 28% of girls 15-19 are pregnant or have already had a child. According to Government of Sierra Leone research over 1,400 girls under 18 years of age became pregnant during the Ebola period (Awoko News’ November 26)
According to a report done by the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology:
there are 30.5% of girls 10-14 not in school in Sierra Leone
28% of girls 15-19 are pregnant or have already had a child
20% of currently sexually active girls 15-19 are using a modern contraceptive
Yes! Take a moment to let that sink in! Those numbers are staggering. Especially for a small country like Sierra Leone with a population over six million in 2015. And of that 41.9% of that population are in the age group of 0-14 years. It is mind-boggling that in this modern day and age, where it seems the drawbacks of teen pregnancy are well disseminated, the teenage pregnancy rate is not getting better in the country. Why?
Everybody is complaining about the behavior of Sierra Leonean children today. Everybody complains about children focusing on the wrong things. Everybody complains that too many girls are getting pregnant. So what must be done to curb the incidences of teen pregnancy in Sierra Leone? I think the best place to start is to understand what fuels it!
What causes teen pregnancy in Sierra Leone?
If we want to see a reduction in teen pregnancies, we have to be willing to do what is necessary to make that change occur. It requires a collective effort from all Sierra Leoneans. And it first starts with a positive shift in our attitudes. It is easy to shift blame. It is easy to make excuses. It is easy to just expect others to do the necessary work.
But combating teen pregnancy starts at the home. As a parent, it is your duty to show love, care and attention to your daughter. It is your duty to speak to your daughter about sex and what it entails. In Sierra Leone, it is seen as a taboo to discuss sex with your children. But gone are the days in which heart to heart discussions about such matters are not important. It is a bit naive to expect to raise children now in the same manner children were raised 40-50 years ago. Times have changed. Parents need to accept that. And equip themselves with the skills to raise these kids. Kids are more inquisitive now. If you do not arm them with necessary information, they go out there to get answers. And eventually, unwanted pregnancies happen.
In Sierra Leone, it is not uncommon to find men, even parents, judge the physical and sexual maturity of a child by the fullness of her breasts, size of her hips and the start of the menstrual cycle. It is seen as the status quo. And why mess up a good thing, uh?
But yet, the law states that a child becomes an adult at the age of 18. So no matter how physically, emotionally or mentally mature a child looks or behaves, having that child engage in such acts is unlawful and unconstitutional. And when a girl, begins to engage in sex, it not only affects her psyche but inevitably pregnancy.
According to World Vision, Sierra Leone is one of the world’s poorest countries. Around 70 percent of the population lives below the poverty line. And men take advantage of girls in need. A lot of parents who are broken, tired and out of options choose to encourage their daughters to have boyfriends. (whether they be their age group or not) just to receive money. And thus, in just a matter of time, these girls with very little or no sexual education, wind up pregnant.
4. Lack of Quality Education and Job Opportunities
One thing that I have noticed in Freetown is the explosions of schools. Every year, new schools are opening. I have no qualms with that. But I wonder, is it about the quantity of schools or the quality? Everybody is complaining that there is a shortage of teachers in the country. So where are these new schools getting their teachers? And to top it off, teachers are frustrated and frequently strike. Teachers are unqualified. Teachers exploit students.
Standard quality education is what is needed in Sierra Leone. With that, girls would be more properly motivated to concentrate on school work. Job opportunities need to be increased with matching salaries. You cannot expect the average Sierra Leonean parent to put all their blood, sweat and tears into educating his children when the employment rate after gaining a bachelor’s degree is so miserably low! What incentive is there?
Teen moms are shred to bits and pieces for getting pregnant in our society. I hate that people conveniently forget that these girls do not magically get pregnant. Boys must be educated about the consequences of sex just as much as girls. And men who engage in such acts, should be very heavily fined.
I will write another post on recommendations to combat teen pregnancy in Sierra Leone.
What are your thoughts? What other contributors are there to teen pregnancy in Sierra Leone? Let’s talk!
Remember, be sincerely you!