Community engagement critical in curtailing teen pregnancies

06Jan 2020
Kenneth Simbaya
The Guardian
Community engagement critical in curtailing teen pregnancies

RECENT media interviews with young girls in Lake Zone regions of Mwanza and Simiyu revealed that when girls become pregnant their future, health, education and dreams change radically making them vulnerable to poverty.

A team of journalists reporting on maternal health related issues had recently visited Magu, Ukerewe and Bariadi districts of Mwanza and Simiyu regions.

Dayness (not her real name) is one of the young mothers and victim of teen pregnancies in Magu district, Mwanza region said: “I was dreaming to become a nurse, but my dreams ended up in a thin air after getting pregnancy when I was in Form Two”.

At that time, Dayness said she was 15 years old knowing being pregnant was the end of all her dreams.

“It was difficult for me to break the news to my parents because I was not expecting to conceive at the age, but it all happened once when I met a man for the first time” recalls Dayness, who is now taking care of her two-year-old baby boy.

Dyness’s story is a lesson to many young girls who do not know the importance of using contraceptives as well as the impacts of unprotected sex.

“I am aware of some few contraceptive methods but I have never used anyone of them over fears I would later become barren”, she told journalists who sought to know whether she was knew that pregnancies could be avoided.

In another incident, at one of the secondary schools in Magu district, a 19-year-old girl was found pregnant after a random pregnancy test conducted at the school at every three months.

By the time, Juliana was in Form One and was engaging in unprotected sex without using contraceptives. She claimed that modern contraceptives were said to have side effects thus worrying some women and gild to use them.

“I heard from colleagues that using contraceptives may result into one becoming barren” said Juliana noting her parents had advised her to abort the pregnancy because the responsible man had already disappeared to unknown destinations.

Dayness and Juliana cases are just few examples of teen pregnancies in Tanzania and around the world.

Ukerewe District Education Officer (Secondary), Benjamin Siperto, was of the view that ending adolescent pregnancy requires multi-sectoral approach which also involves the young girls in finding feasible solutions.

“When figuring out solutions to end teen pregnancies in our country we should also involve the girls since the ones to provide us with the possible means. We cannot succeed to end the problem if we only impose solutions on them, the need to participate in planning and implementation of the plans”, he said.

The education officer insisted the need for enhanced partnership between the girls and teachers to come up with designated solution for addressing teenage pregnancy.

The Tanzania Demographic and Health Survey (TDHS) 2010 shows that adolescent fertility rate stood at 116 per 1000 birth, while the TDHS 2015/2016 says the rate is 132 per 1000.

It is estimated that Tanzania is the 17th country in Africa with high adolescent’s birth rate.

Dr Babatunde Osotimehin, Executive Director, United National Population Fund (UNFPA) said: “when girls are educated, they and can avoid child marriage, unintended pregnancy and HIV, they can contribute fully to their societies’ battles against poverty.”

Other factors fueling teen pregnancy include poverty, low level of education as well as tradition and taboos. This has been the case as in an environment where discussions about sex and sexuality remain taboo, it is little wonder that teenage girls are unable to make a healthy and safe transition to adulthood.

Top ten regions leading in teen pregnancies according to the TDHS 2015/2016 are Katavi (45%), Tabora (43%), Morogoro and Dodoma (39%), Mara (37%), Mbeya (33%), Ruvuma and Kigoma (32%), Coastal, Simiyu and Geita (30%), Rukwa (29%), Mwanza and Lindi (28%), and Manyara (26%).

Region with the lowest teen pregnancies are Kilimanjaro (6%) and Mjini Magharibi in Zanzibar (5%).