Teenage pregnancy – It happens, more than we know. The impact on the young girls and their families is huge. Uncertain futures and the reality of giving up ones youth to care for a child is what faces girls who get into this situation.
A friend of mine runs an NGO to help empower gilrs in impoverished areas of Lagos. She recently told me about one of their wards, a young girl showing great promise who has become pregnant. She has been excluded from her school and will not be able to take lessons with her mates, even though she is preparing for her final year exams. The boy who is the father of the child totally denied it, and only under police investigation agreed that he was involved. Her community stigmatizes her and her family for falling pregnant.
Thankfully, she has the support from my friend and her team. They have provided her and her mother with counselling and given some much needed funds to take care of herself and prepare for the baby coming. They negotiated with the school to allow her to take her final exams, and they have also organised for her to have extra lessons to ensure that she is prepared to take her final exams. With help from this team and the counselor, she is able to keep a positive mindset and have hope for the future.
Girls who become pregnant need support. Teenage pregnancy can and will slow down the girls development for a short period, however we must recognize that it doesn’t have to be the end of their lives. As in the above example, with the right support, a young mother can go on to thrive and achieve academic and professional excellence.
I would also like to stress here that we can prevent teenage pregnancies. It is simple. Educating our children and teenagers on sexual health, on who to speak to if they feel pressured to have sex, and where to get preventive birth control measures if they do choose to have sex will go a long way. A lot of parents and a large sector of society believe that if teenagers are educated thus and given access to birth control, they will take advantage of this and have sex. I believe the contrary. I believe that if young people are educated early enough and taught about choices, consequences and the potential impact to themselves from having sex, when they are still learning who they are would probably help people make better choices. Most teenage pregnancy is easily preventable. I encourage parents to overcome their embarrassment and find out how to speak to children from when they are old enough to understand using age appropriate language. Better for the children to learn the right thing from parents, than the wrong thing from people who could take advantage of them.
However, if teenage pregnancy occurs, it isn’t the end. Parents or carers should immediately seek help from health care professionals who will be able to refer the family to the right institution that can provide the support and advice needed and will help to ensure that the young girl can still access a bright future.
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Anuli – February 2020