Young women speak out on teenage pregnancy – KT PRESS

Young women speak out on teenage pregnancy - KT PRESS
Sarah Umutoniwase (right), from Rwamagana District, explains through a translator (Uwamungu Raissa) that she was born out of a rape case in which her late mother conceived at 16

Teenage pregnancies are one of the major social scourges in Rwanda to which the country has not yet found a possible lasting solution.

The Rwandan government and its partners have made tremendous progress in sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) and menstrual health services.

The government has further put in place policies and laws on gender equality, but adolescent girls remain at high risk of becoming pregnant for many reasons that also call for further action.

For example, government efforts have reduced the unmet need for family planning from 39% in 2005 to 14% in 2020, increased the rate of modern contraceptive use from 10% in 2005 to 58% in 2020 and reduce teenage pregnancies by 7%. to 5% in 2021.

Young women who gave birth at a young age say this is due to lack of empowerment to make informed decisions, lack of education, financial hardship and gender-based sexual violence.

Sarah Umutoniwase from Rwamagana District explains that she was born out of a rape case at age 16 and her mother died two years later, leaving her defenceless.

Ange Umutoni, physically disabled member of the Tuzuzanye Disabled People’s Troop (TPT)

At the same age of 16, when she was in Secondary 3 at Groupe Scolaire Butare, Umutoniwase also became pregnant by a man who took advantage of her poverty and ignorance regarding sexual and reproductive health.

“If I had been educated back then, I would have taken a stand to say NO. But now that experience has taught me to prepare my children not to fall into the same trap and to demand that the government focus also on boys’ education,” says Umutoniwase, now 30 and married with three children.

Getting pregnant automatically meant dropping out of school and her friends persuaded her to have an abortion, but she refused and gave birth with the support of her adoptive mother, who helped her start a small roasting business of corn to make ends meet.

Just like Umutoniwase, Josiane Niyigena also got pregnant when she was still a teenager following a young man who stalked her daily on her way to school.

Niyigena says the young man invited her to visit him at home but asked if he was living with his parents and he said yes but on visiting him she found out he was living alone.

“I discovered the truth when I was already in his room. So he locked me up and raped me and three weeks later I realized I was pregnant,” Niyigena said.

Ange Raissa Uwamungu, one of the female youth leaders at the MHM workshop in Kigali

Niyigena and Umutoniwase argue that despite ignorance of girls’ reproductive health, boys and men are equally responsible for girls’ unwanted pregnancies.

“When we look at the focus on preventing these pregnancies, it’s only on girls and in my classes I try to change the focus on boys as well,” Umutoniwase said.

Joyeuse Nyiransabimana, a resident of Bwishyura Sector in Karongi District says a neighbor raped and impregnated her when she was 16, because she needed new clothes (trousers) which her parents could not provide.

“When I took my clothes off to dress the gift of new pants, he raped me,” Nyiransabimana said, all because she needed new clothes.

Nyiransabimana Joyeuse (left) and Usanase Emerine from Karongi district tell how they got pregnant when they were under 18 and in primary school

Nyiransabimana is one of 54 girls who have been pregnant in her sector, out of more than 17,333 pregnant between 2015 and 2020 across the country – figures that remain alarming.

Nyiransabimana says lack of satisfaction with what girls have is an underlying factor in teenage pregnancies and calls on parents to play a leading role in educating and meeting girls’ needs .

To understand these cases and take action, Rwandan Minister of Health Dr. Daniel Ngamije and Minister of Gender and Family Promotion Dr. Jeannette Bayisenge said collective action is needed.

Girls from different refugee camps in Rwanda among the most difficult to access health services

Bayisenge said it is very clear that unwanted pregnancies, especially teenage pregnancies, occur when girls are not empowered enough to make informed decisions, lack education or face sexual violence. sexist.

Dr Ngamije revealed that Rwanda is planning to conduct an in-depth study to further assess the root causes associated with teenage pregnancies in collaboration with partners.

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