When you are a parent, you are entirely responsible for the children that you bring into the world. Your job is to ensure that you provide them with all the necessary amenities as they grow.
Sometimes it can be scary especially since there is no such a thing as an “experienced parent”.
It even gets incredibly difficult and painful when your child goes through challenging situations or makes choices that hurt you. Naturally, you get disappointed and hold back.
At such moments, you may exhibit a sense of guilt or responsibility for your child’s hurtful behaviors often blaming yourself of falling short in responsible child-nurturing and good parenting.
Every child’s “wrong or bad” comportment hurts in equal measure, but none matches the heart break caused by a teenage pregnancy.
Ordinarily, teenage pregnancy can often result in social stigma and judgment from others, which usually affects the parents in a very significant way as well.
They may face criticism, scrutiny, or discrimination from their social circles or the community, which can add to the emotional stress they are already experiencing.
Such is the agony that 52-year old Charles Kayumba has endured for the last 2years when his teenage daughter got pregnant and dropped out of school at the age of 16.
“After all I had done for my children, the last thing I expected was to see my young daughter get pregnant and prematurely drop out of school,” he reminisces with a tinge of bitterness in his voice.
Kayumba who currently lives with his teenage daughter (now a young mother) and her three other siblings in Ntarama Sector, Bugesera district is clearly a disappointed man.
Clad in a pair of black shorts and a grey long-sleeved shirt, working on his banana plantation, Kayumba occasionally breaks down in tears as he narrates his story. The heart break of her daughter unexpectedly becoming a young mother has visibly taken a toll on him.
“The actions of this young girl have left me shattered and broken but I choose to approach the situation with empathy, understanding, and unconditional love for her. That’s the only choice I have,” he says.
He remembers grappling with anxiety and suffering stress disorders which he says, left him isolated and in deep pain only imagining that he could have probably done more to prevent this.
Teen pregnancies can have significant effects on children and parents, both emotionally and physically. And Kayumba is not alone.
Adolescent pregnancy is a complex issue affecting families, health care professionals, educators, government officials and youth themselves.
The most current Rwanda Demographic and Health Survey report published in September 2021 indicates that five percent of adolescent women aged between 15 and 19 are already mothers or pregnant with their first child.
This varies by province, from 4% of adolescent women in both Western Province and the City of Kigali to 6% in East and Southern Provinces.
Ironically, teenage girls with secondary education are less likely to have begun child bearing than young women with primary education.
In Eastern and Central Africa, the overall average prevalence of teenage pregnancy is 55%. Rwanda stands the lowest with 36% and Zimbabwe highest with 65%. These figures indicate that teenage pregnancy is still a major public health in the region and globally.
Advances in technology especially digital communication has changed the way teens interact with their peers and this has been widely seen as one of the major influencing factors towards the prevalence of this negative trend.
Teenage girls are even more susceptible to these challenges because their brains are still developing and their bodies are changing quickly. Thus, the need for collective efforts to curb the vice.
The National Family Planning and Adolescent Sexual and Reproductive Health Strategic Plan (2018-2024) under the Ministry of Health seeks to have all women, men adolescent girls and boys in Rwanda get universal access to quality information and services in an equitable, efficient and sustainable manner.
Other initiatives such as Isange One Stop Centre (under Ministry of Gender and Family Promotion, MIGEPROF) have been set up as a comprehensive response to address gender-based violence which mostly results into teenage pregnancies. Currently there are 50 centers across the country.
Aline Umutoni, the Director of Family Promotion and Child Right Protection at MIGEPROF says that numbers of teenage pregnancies seem to have increased over time because there is widespread awareness against the vice.
“Initially young girls who got pregnant were reluctant to report but now they are aware that rehabilitation measures are available and it’s a criminal offence against the men who make them pregnant,” she says.
She advises parents to learn more about teenage pregnancies, their causes, consequences, and available options.
According to her, this knowledge can help understand the situation better and make informed decisions.
And as the world today commemorates the day of the girl child, let’s all remember not to treat teenage pregnancies as a paradox of parenting but rather a responsibility of all of us a generation.