Women leaders have been challenged to put more efforts in protecting young girls against teenage pregnancies, by creating strong collaboration with law enforcement bodies to make sure defilers are held accountable.
According to Espérance Nyirasafari, the Minster for Gender and Family Promotion, everyone should be alarmed by the increasing trend of teenage pregnancies, which she said is a serious threat for the women/girls empowerment that the government is championing.
She was speaking at a general assembly for the National Women Council in Kigali yesterday which aimed at, among others, reflecting on the achievements registered over the past one year and lay strategies for the year ahead.
“Everyone out there in the community knows the people who defile our young girls. These are family members, neighbours, friends, etc…but many people choose to remain silent over such calamity.
“I think it’s high time we change and I want to see women at the heart of activism on the matter. It is in your capacity,” she said.
According to the 2014/15 Rwanda Demographic Health Survey, 7 per cent of women become pregnant between the ages of 15 and 19.
Early childbearing (15-19 years) occurs more frequently among young women with a primary education (9 per cent) than among those with secondary education or higher (4 per cent).
Figures from Imbuto Foundation indicate that, in 2016, Rwanda registered 17,000 teenage pregnancies.
Though the whole country is affected, statistics show that among the top ten most affected districts, seven of them are from Eastern Province, a trend the minister said should be looked at critically to come up with a solution.
Munyasafari wondered what is wrong in the area (Eastern Province) and cautioned officials in the most affected districts to step up efforts in establishing the reason behind this trend, especially during the upcoming Family Campaign that is set to begin on October 1.
The campaign will run under the theme, 'Building a family free of teenage pregnancies'.
Dr Jeannette Bayisenge, the chairperson of the National Women Council, stressed that teenage pregnancies deprive Rwandan young girls of their right to a peaceful and productive childhood, one that allows them to follow their dreams.
“Life endured by young mothers is so terrible. The majority of those who are enrolled in schools are forced to drop out to take care of their babies and end up doing all types of work to sustain themselves and their children. This is the burden we don’t want our young children to bear. Let’s all come together to create a safe growing environment for young girls,” she said.
Eastern Province women council vice coordinator, Anne Marie Ingabire, pledged her commitment to seek more effective ways to combat high prevalence of teenage pregnancies in the area by increasing awareness among both male and female, young and old.
“Under existing community platforms like Umuganda and parents’ forums (umugoroba w’ababyeyi), I will strive to seek more engagement of men on the matter so that they can comprehend their responsibility in protecting girls,” she said.