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City of Banjul
Sunday, February 25, 2024

Teenage pregnancies

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With Aisha Jallow

The other day there was a short notice in The Standard newspaper about a teenage girl who approached a woman at the Brikama Market, and handed over a bundle of clothing. The girl fled in the crowd, and when the curious woman checked the bundle, it contained a newborn baby with the placenta intact. The woman went to the police to report the incident, and that was the end of the story.

Of course the story doesn’t end here, but as we were not given any further information, it is up to our imagination to try to figure out what will happen after the police report.

Teenage pregnancies are a huge problem in sub-Saharan Africa. Teenage pregnancy is measured as the percentage of women aged 13–19 who have given birth or are pregnant with their first child. It doesn’t matter how much the society put up rules and regulations considering teenagers and their sex life, these rules have always, and will always, be broken. How many of you men, who read this essay, or listen to it on the radio, haven’t had sex or at least tried to have sex before you got married? It is girls/women you have sex with, those you expect to remain pure until marriage, but whose services you seek for eagerly when your mind is set on satisfying your lust.

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In my essay from the week before, I shared some scientific information with you. It tells us that a girl’s brains begin to mature earlier than a boy’s brains. The girl’s begin to mature at the ages of 10-12, and the boy’s not until the ages of 15-21. The difference is significant, and before you begin to argue with me: no, the study doesn’t tell that boys are less intelligent than girls. It is a matter of maturity and the numbers are not fixed. We all know that boys mature later than girls, if we begin to consider that fact. We can see that in their actions towards others. Boys take risks and follow their own whims without a thought, more than girls. Girls are a bit more careful and tend to think before they act.

We have individual differences, of course, and that is where we mainly find our troublemakers. Boys and girls who act out, without a thought, will find themselves in trouble sooner or later. The interest of the opposite gender is an attraction humans have felt since the beginning of creation. Mating has always been regulated, and mainly because it has been important to know who is the father of the baby so that person will take his responsibility for his offspring. What if the guy doesn’t want to take responsibility? What if he blames the girl, if she finds the courage to tell him about the pregnancy? He will tell her that he doesn’t know if he is the father of the child, because if he was able to get his way with her, how will he know that no other guy has done the same? You see; the blame is always on the girl, but it is not possible for her to become pregnant on her own.

The purity we ask for with girls, why don’t we ask for the same with boys? We must speak to our boys about sex, and the consequences of unprotected sex. Yes, our religion tells us that we are not supposed to have sex when we are unmarried, but the calls of nature are still stronger than any rules. With a proper education comes an understanding of how our bodies and minds are working. Separating boys and girls might seem like an easy solution, but if they never get to understand each other they will easily get in trouble. We are not animals, who mate and procreate without a thought, we are human beings with minds that can and must be developed.

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Preventing teenage pregnancies is Africa’s top priority. Investing in teenagers’ health allows them to grow into healthy adults who can contribute positively to society. It is critical to reduce the burden of teenage pregnancies in the developing countries to reduce its consequences. As a result, reducing and preventing teenage pregnancies are a key component of sustainable development goal. Furthermore, African countries such as Ethiopia have several policies aimed at improving adolescent health and preventing teen pregnancy. Girls who become pregnant too early, some even at the age of 10 years old, are at high risk to die during labour. Their bodies are not fully developed until around 17-18 years old, and even that age is too young as the girls need to get proper education first.

Some parents force their girls to get married as soon as they begin to fear her interest in boys. The shame of an unmarried young mother is stronger than the fear for her life and long-term health. We build our societies on fear instead of education. We are forcing our girls to be watchful whenever they are near boys or men. We raise our girls to be innocent, but we don’t allow them to be able to protect themselves by giving them the tools for it. There is a movement called: Stop; it’s my body! This movement’s aim is to teach both boys and girls that no one is allowed to touch them in a way that is inappropriate. If our girls would learn to listen to their own minds whenever they are caught in a situation that feels awkward, they would be able to get away unharmed.

Going back to the girl in the notice, I am sure she fled from the situation because she was in shock. She had given birth, all alone and with no one to comfort her or to help her if there would have been any kind of complications during the labour. She had tried to hide her pregnancy, and now she didn’t know what to do. She actually did the best thing in this situation; she covered the baby in some old clothing and gave it to some random lady at the market. Perhaps she had been watching this lady for a little while, and decided that she looked motherly. Leaving your baby to someone else is a very hard decision to make, so let us not blame the girl.

We should blame ourselves as a society instead for not allowing our young ones to have a proper education. We are not protecting them by holding them bound to a set of rules. We are protecting them instead by allowing them to learn about themselves, about relations, and how to protect themselves from all kinds of harm.

Teenage pregnancy is a major health issue in Africa. Even though teenage pregnancy has declined in the past few decades, it remains a health concern and priority for many African countries.

Teenage pregnancy is related to maternal mortality and morbidity. A study done in Nigeria showed that 33% of maternal mortality attributes to teenage pregnancy. Teenagers faced a higher risk for eclampsia, anaemia, haemorrhage, prolonged labour, and cesarean section. Teenagers are also more likely to develop obstetrical and medical complications such as preterm deliveries.

The young girls, who become pregnant outside wedlock, have nowhere to seek help. They know they have shamed their family, they fear that healthcare workers will treat them cruelly if they would be courageous enough to seek help. They are forever bound to poverty as unmarried, uneducated mothers. The children born into this poverty will not have the same chances in life as other children. Don’t they have the same value in the eyes of God? Search your heart for the answer, and let us create a society together where no one has to live in fear.

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