The Government of Rwanda has made the fight against teenage pregnancies a top priority. This commitment is evidenced by a policy framework that creates an environment aiming to fight this vice.
Campaigns such as ‘Baho Neza Integrated Health Campaign’ have been put in place and one of its major purposes is to fight against teenage pregnancies.
Regardless of such efforts, however, the problem of teen pregnancy still persists.
According to recent media reports, 19,832 underage girls were impregnated last year. Nyagatare District had 1,465 cases; Gatsibo 1,452 cases, Gasabo 1,064 and Kirehe had 1,055 cases.
This year alone, 200 cases have been reported in Muhanga District.
The National Institute for Statistics of Rwanda (NISR) shows that a total of 17, 337 cases of teenage pregnancies were reported in 2017.
Among them, orphans, vulnerable children and children with disabilities were most exposed to sexual abuse and exploitation nationwide.
What is causing this?
Fortune Mukagatana, Muhanga’s vice mayor in charge of social affairs, says that drug abuse is one of the major problems behind this adversity.
She notes that Muhanga as a city is getting urbanised at a high rate, and this is bringing with it a number of vices such as drug abuse.
“Our youth are really engaged in alcohol abuse these days, and this drives them to bad vices, some resort to practise of unprotected sex whereas others even resort to rape,” she says.
Rwanda Men’s Resource Centre (RWAMREC) carried out a survey that was published by Dr Agee Shyaka Mugabe on July 2, 2019.
This research was carried out in two districts, Kicukiro and Huye. This survey was based on attitude, perception, needs of teenagers, teen mothers and community members.
Results that came out of this indicated that 49% of the girls are impregnated by peers while 20% others are impregnated by family friends.
It also showed that families and the community at large stigmatise teen mothers, and that these young mothers are deprived of medical and education services.
What’s being done to address this?
Fidele Rutayisire, the Executive Secretary of RWAMREC, says they are working with both boys and girls towards eliminating this.
“We’re not only working with girls, but we are also going to schools to educate students, not only the girls, but also the boys, on how to help increase efforts in fighting against teenage pregnancy,” he says.
Rutayisire also highlights that they are working with Rwanda Governance Board and Canada Initiative for Local Family to scale up efforts in curbing the vice.
Sam Karinda, a project manager at Care International, cited a program- Safe Schools for Girls- that is being implemented in 174 schools in five districts.
He notes that it is reaching up to 47,564 adolescent students (27,797 girls and 19,767 boys) in lower secondary education, ranging from the age of 11-18 years.
Mukagatana says that they have set up clubs in various sectors and that these clubs are charged with the responsibilities of mentoring young ladies on how to behave when faced with dangerous situations such as rape.
“We are doing this with Union Catholique Feminine, a catholic non-profit social group,” she says.