According to recent Ministry of Gender and Family Promotion (MIGEPROF) data, between July and December last year, approximately 13,000 young girls under the age of 19 were impregnated in Rwanda. Rwanda has consistently had a high rate of teenage pregnancies, which begs the question, why are so many young girls getting pregnant? And, who is impregnating them? While it is evident that a young impregnated girl will primarily and most likely suspend her studies to attend to the unprecedented biological burden, what role does the man/boy (who impregnated her) play in this situation? Are they held liable or subjected to any other form of accountability? Why isn’t there comparable data showing how many men/boys were charged with having sexual relations with, and impregnating, a minor? In an interview, Prof. Jeannette Bayisenge, Minister of Gender and Family Promotion in Rwanda, emphasised the role of parents in preventing such incidents. She encouraged them to be vigilant and to befriend their children so that they are aware and in a position to know what is going on in their own child’s life. But, once again, should we simply monitor the girl-child, and blame her parents for not being vigilant enough? It has been repeatedly observed that much older men/boys impregnate teenage girls. As a result, it’s not surprising that the girl in question will almost certainly keep it a secret, even from her parents. So, who is to blame for the rise in early pregnancies? Do we simply expect parents to do what they should be doing, which is being actively involved in their children’s lives? Or do we look elsewhere because we’ve tried the first two options for quite some time now? Mixed views “That is why I prefer that my daughters attend a single-gender boarding school. Because being close to your girl isn’t enough; the environment should also be conducive to the discipline you want them to have,” Immaculee Kantengwa, a mother of two, advised. When asked about reports of teachers or other male supervisors at some schools (even single ones) taking advantage of younger girls and even impregnating them in some cases, she stated, “You should make certain that it is a good school. However, you can only do your part.” Unlike Kantengwa, some believe the situation warrants more serious measures, like providing access to contraceptive services for girls aged 15 and older. ALSO READ: Mixed reactions over proposal for teens’ access to contraceptives Ange Umutoni, Program Officer at Health Development Initiative, in a televised debate, cited a previously rejected bill to provide access to contraceptive services for children (girls) as young as 15. “With or without assistance, young people will engage in sexual activities. It is preferable that we educate them while also aiding them in avoiding risks. For example, reconsidering the bill’s rejection. “It should not necessarily involve introducing teens to severe contraceptive methods. Denying them overall access excludes even the most basic of all, condoms, exposing them to risks like early pregnancies,” she added. ALSO READ: Parliament rejects bill on contraceptives for 15-year olds Derrick Manirareba, a secondary teacher, thinks more effort is needed in law enforcement than anywhere else. “Personally, I do not believe that providing teens with access to contraception will solve the problem; rather, it would be similar to publicly allowing them to proceed. I also believe it is unjust to only condemn a minor for an early pregnancy. Instead, more law enforcement should be mobilised against those who take advantage of them,” he said. In an article published in The New Times, in 2016, the number of teenage births recorded was 17,849, in 2017, it reduced to 17,337 teenage births, but in 2018 it increased to 19,832 and later 23,628 in 2019. A total of 19,701 girls from all over the country gave birth between January and December 2020. Cases of teenage pregnancies increased by 23 per cent from 19,701 in 2020 to 23,000 in 2021, according to data from the Gender Ministry.