Young girls in particular are increasingly dealing with early and unwanted pregnancies, which is further exacerbating poverty and inequality. There are signs that teenage pregnancies are on the rise in several African countries — due to pandemic induced lockdowns and closure of school which provided a safety net to girl children.
According to UNICEF, difficulties during pregnancy and childbirth are among the leading causes of death among young women between 15 and 19 in Africa.
Health experts and teen behaviour observers say that there is cause for concern and are warning of the long-term consequences early pregnancies have on young girls.
1. Safety structure is a must
Girls are much more vulnerable to sexual abuse without such safety structures, which help to educate them about sexual and reproductive health. Even if the schools are closed, there has to be a social safety structure which acts like a safe haven just like a school where girls can stand up for themselves and fend off unwanted sexual advances.
2. Fighting poverty should be the priority
Growing poverty as one reason for rising teen pregnancy rates. Poor people marry off their teenage girls much like a business deal, which only exacerbates the situation According to the Ugandan government, prior to the pandemic the teen pregnancy rate was one in four teenagers. Now, it’s nearly one in three girls in every village.
3. Greater emphasis on sex education
One reason for the high rate of teenage pregnancy is that girls have very limited access to contraceptives or the option of safe abortion. There is a need for a comprehensive sex education, which should be offered to young people at appropriate ages in and out of school.
4. Invest in primary healthcare
A robust primary healthcare infrastructure has to be in place where teenagers can go and ask for help. There is a need to encourage them to attend primary health care clinics in their communities. This will boost their confidence and make them aware of the long term health risks involved with teenage pregnancy.
5. Transparent communication is key
Aa parents, we have to be honest and open. We need to listen carefully to find out the pain points in a teenager’s life. Make your conversations back and forth—two ways. Talking with your children about sex will not encourage them to become sexually active instead it will give them confidence to share their problems and issues with you and not with someone who may try to take the advantage of their vulnerabilities.
6. Supervise and monitor without being snoopy
There is no harm in having a complete knowledge about your teenage kids’ whereabouts. Give them the independence they need but ensure that they are safe. We should also ensure that they are involved in useful activities.
7. Ensure early intervention if necessary
Watch out for warning signals. Intervene early if your teenage daughter’s grade start falling for no apparent reason. School failure is one of the key risk factors for teen parenthood. Keep track of your children’s grades and meet with teachers.