EDITORIAL: Teenage pregnancy should concern all

Last week, a group of lawyers and behavioral change trainers were deployed in 10 districts to help sensitise young people and communities in general about the dangers of teenage pregnancy and sexual abuse.

The group was deployed under the auspices of the umbrella of human rights organisations in Rwanda, CLADHO, which has joined hands with the National Youth Council, to tackle the issue of teenage pregnancy, which remains a key challenge across the country.

Teenage pregnancy continues to be cited as a major barrier to keeping girls in school, and last week’s deployment of lawyers and activists to help reverse the trend came hot on the heels of a new report that indicated that, as many as 818 teenage girls in 52 sectors across the country became pregnant before turning 18 years within a space of two years.

The team is expected to work closely with local government entities and school administrators to raise awareness and reduce prevalence of teen pregnancy.

Besides potentially leading to dropping out of school on the part of the schoolgirls involved, teen pregnancy also comes with economic strain on the young mothers and their families, while the children are likely to be rejected by their fathers, or have an absent father, especially if they are students themselves or are in stable relationships.

With figures indicating that as many as 69 per cent of children are ignorant about their rights and how to protect themselves against violations – which means that offenders often get away with it –, the importance of such interventions as the one launched last week cannot be overemphasised.

While the project seeks to help address the issue rather holistically, including trying to resolve paternity disputes that tend to arise in such situations, it is imperative that more emphasis is put on empowering young girls to be in position to protect themselves from such cases and remain focused on their education.

The role of parents and educators, too, needs to be emphasised because, ultimately, they are the ones in a better position to provide day-to-day guidance to adolescents and other young people and must, therefore, take the lead in this effort.

This is also a national issue, which, if nothing is done to address it, can potentially undermine the country’s development agenda, since it can easily lead to population explosion and perpetuate poverty.

As such, the task to prevent teenage pregnancy should not be left to a few actors; the magnitude of the issue and its possible ramifications call for everyone’s involvement.