I approach this topic not just as a female, but as a radical feminist that believes that the dignities of girls matter so as to attain progress in any given state. Teenage pregnancy is a situation which involves female adolescents. A teenage female can be pregnant as early as age 12 or 13 but it's usually 14 and older. However, there have been instances where some teenage girls have conceived even at earlier stages. Teenage pregnancy has caused so many harmful effects on the lives of young girls in Africa and Sierra Leone to be precise. A good number of young girls come under attack the moment they become pregnant. This has become a serious social problem that needs to be confronted before the effects turnout to being devastating consequences. Pregnancy is a natural condition that usually brings joy and positively changing people's life. Even though pregnancy could be one of the best experiences for women, when it's been contracted very early in life, it may cause more defects than benefits.
Teenage pregnancy is tagged as one of the well-known social problems in Sierra Leone. Early child bearing alters people's well-being in a way that individuals are unable to achieve personal goals. Early pregnancy greatly impacts individual’s lives by provoking poor educational attainment, poor socio-economic situation and poverty. It's very important for young men and women to be educated about the risky nature of unwanted pregnancies.
In 2014 and 2015, the status of youths’ report has revealed that teenage pregnancy is one of the most pervasive problems affecting the health, social, economic, political progress and empowerment of adolescent girls and young females in Sierra Leone. According to the report, the situation comes with high risks of morbidity and mortality for both the mother and child. The report continued that 28 percent of all pregnancies occurred amongst teen girls and 40 percent of maternal deaths occurred as a result of teenage pregnancy. It noted that the visible ramification was that such pregnancies eventually reduced the educational and empowerment opportunities for women in the country and naturally increased stress as most of the children were born into homes that were not ready for them.
The report also revealed that between 2008 and 2013, 47 percent of girls at age 18 already had children or were already married, 16 percent married before 18 years and 64 percent by age 20. At regional level, the proportion of teenagers who have started childbearing was highest in the Southern region being at 50 percent whiles the Western Area had almost 18 percent, and that 68 percent of young girls have their first pregnancy between the ages of 12 to 20.
Many a time, I am engulfed in a state of regret when I see that young girls that were supposed to be in school carry unwanted pregnancies. I am often alarmed when I see an extremely adolescent girl experiencing motherhood at a time when her main concerns should be far less than those of raising another human being. When I sat down and think critically, I often get devastated that with all of the challenging issues facing Sierra Leone, the vice of early and teenage pregnancy still has to show its ugly face.
To start with, one of the main causes of teenage pregnancy is lack of information about sexual and reproductive health and rights. This is to say, children who normally involve in teen pregnancy lack reproductive and sexual orientation in their homes and schools. As a result of that, it has led so many dropouts from school especially the girl child.
Another cause of teenage pregnancy is lack of inadequate access to services tailored to young people. In other words, children must have the basic social amenities such as, food, clothing, education, etc. If children do not have these basic social amenities in the society or community at large, there would be a high tendency or risk for them to be involved in things that may likely lead them to prostitution.
Thirdly, the pressure to marry early in life could also be another reason for teenage pregnancy. This pressure most times comes from the family of a young girl that may not even have the intention of settling down with a man. Because of these reasons, many children could not fully realize their potentials and hence – the teenage pregnancy retail that may have been informed by early marriage in such instances.
The reality of the matter is that every year, more and more teens are having children at an alarming young age. The issues raise the question of what can be done to prevent and lower the rates of teenage pregnancy. So, in order to prevent teenage pregnancy, teenagers need to have a comprehensive understanding of abstinence, contraceptive techniques and the consequences of unprotected sex.
Although there are many different ways to prevent a teenage girl from becoming pregnant, the only one that is absolutely effective is sexual abstinence. This method is the only one that guarantees no risk of getting pregnant and protects the teen from getting any sexually transmitted diseases.
Moreover, early marriage and forced marriage could both result to teenage pregnancy. However, some parents are in the habits to force their girl child into early marriage all in the name of poverty and lack of awareness which serves as an hindrance for them to be educated. Meanwhile, our young girls nowadays face so many challenges in the society they found themselves and these are some of the challenges faced by young girls in present day society.
One amongst the many challenges they face is discrimination. Of course, society holds the view that once you have become a victim of teenage pregnancy; one should be segregated and be looked at as an alien or an outcast. To me, this is only making matters worse and adding salt to an already established injury.
Another challenge has to do with Psychological Trauma. Many if not all pregnant teenagers do experience or go through psychological trauma because of parental pressure and or provocation in the community or society they find themselves.
Isolation is also another challenge they are faced with. Society believes that hence you become a victim of teenage pregnancy; isolation could be the best policy so as not to negatively impact peers. This move can kill one’s confidence.
I will therefore make a case that in tackling the negative consequences of teenage pregnancy, a whole lot has to be done. What I am therefore suggesting here may not solve it all, but it is my hope that it will help in addressing some of the concerns of teenage pregnancy.
Foremost, parents should talk to their children early and often about sex and love. Parents and guardians should also supervise and monitor children's activities. It is also prudent to discourage early, frequent and steady dating. Efforts must also be put into knowing your children's friends and acquaintances.
For teenage girls, you have to track your ovulation so that you will not get pregnant at an early stage. Use condoms correctly when having sex if you must. Emergency contraceptives: This is to say, teens girls must be regular with contraceptives. This may lower the risk of teenage pregnancy, but it is always suggested to seek proper medical advice.
It is conviction that the problem of teenage pregnancy may not be too prevalent in Sierra Leone if some of these measures are taken into consideration. Remember, the lives of young girls matter. A baby can hardly take care of another baby and even if an attempt is done, the effects, ten chances to one may also be challenging and debilitating.