Cases of teenage pregnancies increased by 23 per cent from 19,701 in 2020 to 23,000 last year, according to data from the Gender Ministry According to a breakdown of information provided by the Minister of Gender and Family Promotion, Jeanette Bayisenge, the Eastern province has the highest number of teenage mothers She said Nyagatare district registered 1,799 cases of teen mothers last year, Gatsibo 1,574, and Kirehe 1,365. All these districts are in the eastern province. Leading causes In an interview with The New Times, Diane Iradukunda, a Child Protection Specialist at the National Child Development Agency (NCDA)—said that there are many issues that may have triggered the rise in teenage pregnancies countrywide. “Among the reasons is the irresponsibility of some parents or the lack of positive parenting skills,” she stated. In many cases, she added, teenage pregnancies occur to children whose parents are not closely involved in their lives at a personal level. She observes that as a result, poor parenting deprives the girls of the skills and values that would otherwise help them to live responsible lives. Iradukunda also highlighted family conflicts, misuse of ICT and social media platforms, in addition to limited knowledge and access to youth and child-friendly sexual reproductive Health and Right services among other reasons. The Covid-19 outbreak, which triggered a series of lockdowns, schools closures, and movement restrictions and brought about economic hardships in families also exposed the girls to risks of unwanted pregnancies, she added. Evariste Murwanashyaka, the Programs Manager of the Umbrella of Human Rights Organizations in Rwanda (CLADHO), said; “Economically, some families have suffered due to the Covid-19 pandemic, forcing some teenage girls to fend for themselves, and in the process making them vulnerable to sexual exploitation.” Reverend Pastor Antoine Rutayisire has partly blamed the matter to the prevailing moral laxity as well as the lack of a sense of responsibility among the adults. “A good number of the youths are corrupted by older people who could be the age of their parents or even grandparents,” he said, adding that many young teenagers engage in sexual practice because of peer pressure. ‘Needs for more research’ According to Iradukunda, the absence of scientific research on the major causes of sexual and gender-based violence means that there are gaps in the policy to tackle the problem. ‘Engaging teenagers’ Civil society and religious leaders have called for relentless efforts to reduce teen pregnancies, especially through engaging teenagers. Murwanashyaka says more resources should be allocated to efforts to prevent rape and defilement as well as arrest and prosecution of perpetrators. Rutayisire also recommends training among the youth for self-management, not just about sex but also about other areas of life, including reproduction lessons at all levels of education, and intensive sensitisation for responsible parenting.