Was feeling a little sketchy today. I call it the Pregnanteen.

The recent comment by President Magufuli of Tanzania has stirred the country’s social media platforms, with a majority of citizens calling for a reversal of this statement. In some ways, I support the President’s comment. Hold on. Before you totally dismiss my opinion on this post, just hear me out. Okay? I promise I’ll make it worth your time.

According to the World Bank’s collection of development indicators, teenage mothers (percentage of women ages 15-19) who have either had children or a re currently pregnant) in Tanzania were reported at 26.7% in 2016. In fact, Tanzania has one of the highest adolescent and birth rates in the world, according to the United Nations Population Fund (U.N.F.P.A)

 

Yes, I am For It.

Deterrence. Over the years, Tanzania has had a high prevalence in teenage pregnancies. Between 2006 and 2009 a total of 16,999 girls in primary and secondary schools across the country dropped out of school because they were pregnant. That’s about 5,000 girls per year! I am partly for this statement because it provides a dissuasion to get pregnant during the teenage years.

The man. The President has also stipulated that the man who impregnates a school-going girl will go to prison for 30 years. Need I say more?

 

And Yes, I am Against It.

Sexual harassment and Sexual Abuse. One of the drawbacks of His Excellency’s comment is that it is a blanket one. It does not take into consideration the many young girls impregnated against their will, and who are about a third of Tanzanian girls who had sex before 18 years of age.

Early Marriages. Despite the change in law in July 2013 (where the High Court of Tanzania ruled to revise the law to raise the legal age of marriage for girls from 15 and 14 to 18), it is still essential that the attitudes of citizens are changed to ensure that this ruling is upheld effectively.

The man. In spite of the 30 years that the man has to serve in prison, there are still high chances that the man will not be reported to the authorities because these men are usually either relatives or other caretakers to the girls, who demand sex as payment for favors and, outrageously, even for basic needs!

 

This Is What I Think

To ensure soon-to-be legislation/declaration works for and not against teenage mothers, the government should provide avenues for discussion with stakeholders and take into consideration the following adjustments:

  1. Using mass media and social media to successfully communicate health information and to influence the norms and beliefs of adolescents.
  2. Providing curriculum-based comprehensive sexuality education, which will, among other things, provide and support to deal with the thoughts, feelings and experiences accompanying sexual maturity.
  3. Making all health care services adolescent-friendly.

 

*******

 

Well, that being said, it calls for discussion, hooray! A tricky one, I must say. If you think along the lines of the effort that has been put in in the previous years for the girl-child to be sent to school, it’s baffling to have a significant number of people standing for the argument that teenage mothers should be dismissed from school. However, we cannot argue to the fact that being a pregnant student is distracting. Not only to the potential mother, but if she is in the school environment, perhaps to her schoolmates as well. Leave alone the stigmatization.

Either way, being banished from school, doesn’t necessarily mean you can no longer learn. I mean, you might be in school…whilst not learning anything at all. At the end of the day, the boundaries will be set by the student herself…with a possible, maybe even remarkable influence from her surroundings: the people, attitude, energy and opportunities around her. Not to forget the Vocational Collages (V.E.T.A) that could offer a fall-back plan.

A very complex issue we’re dealing with here. You can drop in your two cents in the comments section below to let us know what you think. For all we know, we may be missing something.

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