By Linneah Lijodi
I grew up in the informal settlement and most of my age mates had children while we were still in primary school. To date, the situation has not changed. The rate at which young girls are getting pregnant is alarming, the cycle continuing into generations.
This could be owing to a number of factors, including that most parents in the informal settlements never have sex talks with their children, leaving them to learn from schools, which is not well elaborated as most teachers do not fully express themselves on matters of sex. Most boys and girls during puberty stage they tend to be very curious with no caution. Parents are scared that their children are having babies at a young age, yet they do not have enough courage to talk matters sex with their children and guide them into puberty, with its challenges and discoveries. Most boys and girls walk on this journey of life and discover themselves in very different ways which in the end dent their future and break their dreams and hopes.
In a way, it has become cool to have a child at a young age. Babies are like trophies in the informal settlement and are referred to by most young mothers as “certificate”. I am in my mid-20s. I have many hopes and dreams that I am working towards and although children are a blessing, I would prefer having them at my own pace and time. Although I have slept hungry numerous times gone to school with tattered uniform, I did not allow my vision to be blurred by the pennies men had to offer, only to end up suffering most of my life trying to raise a child.
The effects are more adverse on the young mothers than on the men that got them pregnant. After giving birth, most girls opt not to go back to school, given the responsibility of raising a child and the stigma. Furthermore, babies are expensive and most girls are abandoned with their children to raise single handedly which is not easy. Boys often continue with their education after getting a girl pregnant since they do not have to drop out and nurse their pregnancy and the child after it is born and cater for it until it is 18 years of age and even more.
Girls need to be empowered not only in the sense of providing them with sanitary towels but also in knowing their self-worth and the reality that comes with raising a child when you are a minor. In the informal settlement there is a lot of pressure on young girls about having a child, older women name call young girls and this puts pressure on them to prove that they are not barren.
We should have more advocacies on sexual reproductive health. Young queens must wake up and clam their queendom. Peer pressure will be there but be your dream ambassador. Break the chains of poverty by having an education. There will always be temptations but if you must insist on using condom so that you are protected from sexually transmitted diseases and early pregnancy. If teenage boys and girls are sexually active, then the government should come up with means of contraceptives. We need to enlighten our girls to be smart and know that their future is of the most importance. As a community we should also encourage young girls to pursue an education and not name calling them when they tend to be different. Let’s all champion to have this conversation at the grass root level.