The 2014/2015 Demographic and Health survey showed that teenage pregnancy rates in Rwanda increased from 6.1 per cent in 2010 to 7.3 per cent in 2015.
This, according to officials, is a red flag, which calls for urgent action to address the problem. It is good that the authorities acknowledge that this is a big problem, and indeed acknowledging it is the starting point to find a solution.
During the national celebrations to mark the annual World Population Day, held on Sunday, in Gatsibo District under the theme ‘Investing in teenage girls’, different officials expressed concern over the issue of teenage pregnancy.
To find a durable solution, there is need for concerted efforts from all stakeholders, including government, parents, school administrators, grassroots leaders, religious leaders, as well as the general public.
Teenage pregnancies have a negative impact on the development of the country. They expose teens to the risk of contracting HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases, as well as death as many of them, out of desperation, resort to unsafe abortion.
Stakeholders should fully empower young girls to make informed choices to determine their future, and to resist temptations and report violations wherever they occur.
But we should also empower schoolgirls with knowledge about reproductive health and ease access to sexual reproductive health services.
However, in the unfortunate event that a teen gets pregnant, society should not ridicule her, but instead offer her support. Usually the pregnant girl drops out of school, while the boy responsible (whenever that is the case) continues with his studies.
At home, the girl is also ridiculed by her family.
That only makes the problem worse for the girl and it is not the right approach to address the challenge.
Therefore, as measures are taken to prevent teen pregnancies, focus should also be put on rehabilitating the teenagers who get pregnant in form of helping them to cope and return to school after giving birth. Prevention efforts should be supplemented by a comprehensive programme for rehabilitation of teenage mothers.
Equally important is to always make sure that in case the person responsible for a teen pregnancy is an adult, necessary legal action must always be taken, particularly if the girl involved is underage.
This would send out a clear message that, as a people, we are determined to prevent teenage pregnancy.