Meet the women championing fight against teen pregnancy

Teen pregnancy remains a challenge but along with stakeholders, the Government is fighting hard to curb the vice. One outstanding aspect, however, is how young women have taken it upon themselves to curb this hardship. They have started initiatives to sensitise and help young girls to stay in school, alert them on how to prevent unwanted pregnancies, and they also support those who are raising kids as teen mothers.

These young women believe that it is their responsibility to face this challenge head on. 

One of these phenomenal women is Marie Ange Raïssa Uwamungu who founded Impanuro Girls Initiative, a platform that empowers girls and women through counselling and training, but most importantly, educates them on the prevention of early and unwanted pregnancies.

Uwamungu says having young girls take the lead in curbing teen pregnancies makes her feel relieved, adding that it would be a bigger issue if none of the young women were doing anything about this problem.

Inadequate reproductive health information and limited access to family planning information are major factors to blame for teen pregnancy.  

“Leading these kinds of initiatives motivates others to do better, for they may feel the need to join hands with us. I started this initiative in 2017 and in 2018 other incredible women joined me to tackle this problem together,” she says.

“I also think we are in a better position to help fellow girls because we meet them everywhere; at school, church, in the neighbourhoods, among other places. Older women have got too much on their plates for them to really see what is happening with every teenage girl in the country,” she adds.

Uwamungu, hence, believes that if only all young women and girls would join hands to tackle this problem together, much more will be achieved.

Before she started her initiative, she recalls that while she went on with school, some of her friends dropped out, one by one, because of early pregnancies. The situation hit her hard and she promised to do something about it.

Campaigns are in place to sensitise girls on reproductive health to avoid unwanted pregnancies and stay in school.  /Net photos

Basing on her experience, Uwamungu considers that teen pregnancies are mainly caused by poverty and poor parenting. “For example in my sector most parents cannot afford some of their daughters’ needs and some of them are not even present in their daughters’ lives. This, at times, pushes young girls to offer their bodies to men who promise them money in exchange.”

She believes that what needs to be done is for parents to work hard and provide their children with needs, to educate girls on how to accept their situation without giving in to temptation, and also provide them with information about sexual reproductive health.

“The Government should also provide condoms and other contraceptive pills, and teenage girls should learn how to say ‘no’ to anything that might lead them to unwanted and unprotected sex.”

Amina Umuhoza is another young woman championing this cause. She says her strength to start her initiative ‘Dukataze’ was awakened by the research she made three years ago that helped her understand how girls ended up having unintended pregnancies.

Inadequate reproductive health information and limited access to family planning information were the major factors to blame, she observed.

She also blames parents who expect their children to get information on reproductive health from other people.

More factors, she notes, are peer pressure and dependency syndrome, “This is mainly a mentality where young girls are eager to own things that they can’t afford, or to live a life style that is beyond their parents’ means.”

Umuhoza also blames this situation on low self-esteem, noting that there are plenty of girls who don’t have clear and well-shaped goals for their lives, and that this influences the mentality to agree with what life throws their way without questioning the possible consequences.

“Solving this problem requires joint efforts and this is why I call upon everyone who has either financial or technical help to support these initiatives that are aiming to end teenage pregnancies,” she says.

Umuhoza applauds all young women assuming responsibility, saying that it inspires her, for this portrays that one can never be too young to make the change they not only want to see but live in.

Marie France Niyonizera is a nurse who also chose to start a blog—she shares messages and different testimonies from powerful women with the aim of inspiring young girls; for them to see that with hard work one can get where they want.

“A blog is a great platform for me to help fellow women, especially teenagers. I think this type of message helps my readers understand that they are not alone in this world and that no matter what they go through, there’s always a bright side to everything. That they are not alone and we are here to support and understand them,” she says.

She notes that it is of great honour to see that it is young women who are leading this revolution.

“It all starts with us; we cannot wait for the world to change because we are the ones to start the movement, to set a better example. We are the ones to inspire and uplift other women and that’s a great initiative that we are finally standing for our rights,” Niyonizera says.

She says that though there are a number of causes for teen pregnancy, the major cause is lack of self-love.

“When you don’t love yourself, you are not happy with your life and don’t value yourself, hence, you try to live somebody else’s. What I am trying to say here is that when you don’t know who you are, when you don’t have values, you settle for less because you don’t know your worth and I think that’s the problem.”

At a certain age, young girls are tempted to want to live a luxurious life which leads to dating older men for their money, or dating the ‘hot guy’ from school just to be popular. This type of behaviour can lead to unwanted pregnancy if one is not careful, Niyonizera explains.

She, therefore, recommends that what needs to be done is to continue to raise awareness about the consequences of teenage pregnancies and encourage parents to be more present in their children’s lives.

“I think if parents, especially mothers, were more aware of what is happening in their children’s lives, it would be easier to prevent those pregnancies.”

She also instructs to use other people’s testimonies to help those who have been affected by the problem and also those who haven’t, and to use social media platforms to raise awareness on the causes since this is where the youth spend most of their time.

“We should all make this problem our responsibility and try to help one another fight teen pregnancies,” Niyonizera says.

Sharifa Umuhoza is the founder of ‘Icyerekezo, my value my vision’ that imparts girls with knowledge about their value and ability to take charge of their destiny.

Umuhoza says it is a very good thing that the number of young women tackling this issue is increasing.

This means we now understand that it is a very big problem, and that it is affecting young girls and also our country in general, she says.

She thinks there are two major causes of teen pregnancies.

“For those in urban areas, the major cause is unemployment whereas those in rural areas it’s mostly poverty. You could be in school today but tomorrow your parents fail to get tuition to keep you in school. If you get someone to pay for your studies it means you give what you have to pay back, that is how they fall into the trap,” she explains.

Umuhoza, however, calls onto young girls to be wise and not let their circumstances determine their future.

“Our country gave us opportunities to be entrepreneurs, we also have public sectors to help fund our businesses, like ‘Business Development Fund’ among others. Why can’t we approach them for support instead of eating what we didn’t work for?” she says.

“As young women, we should work hard to get what we want because those men are not working for us, they are using us.”

editor@newtimesrwanda.com