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OPINION: WITH 25 GIRLS SEXUALLY ABUSED DAILY IN NIGERIA, CAN WE BLAME OUR TEENAGE PREGNANCY ON NEGLIGENCE OR IGNORANCE?

Teenage pregnancy
Teenage pregnancy still remains high in low and middle-income countries, as well as in high-income countries.
It is no longer news that each year, over 20 million young females, aged 15 to 19 years in developing countries, become pregnant; and approximately 12 million of them put to bed. No less than 770,000 births happen to adolescent girls below the age of 15 years in developing countries. Teen pregnancy has become a major setback and public health problem, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa where almost 10% of girls become mothers by age 16, leaving them with the highest rates in Africa.
Thus, the region is also known for the high rate of maternal and child morbidity, and mortality.
The adolescent birth rate, according to the Nigerian Demographic Health Survey (NDHS), shows 106 births per 1,000 women.
Generally, teen births seem to be higher in the North, particularly in the North-Western Zone, where the median age of first marriage and first sexual intercourse is approximately 16 years.
Teenage pregnancy is regarded as a major contributor to the number of school dropouts. A large number of girls dropped out of school as a result of pregnancy and some became pregnant as early as primary six of the Nigerian school system.
Teenage pregnancies mostly occur in low and middle-income countries, commonly influenced by poverty and lack of education among others. In a number of societies, young girls are pressured into marrying and giving birth early.
It is sad and has thus become worrisome as these young girls point to their biological fathers, stepfathers and kins as perpetrators of these outrageous acts.
An average of 25 teenage girls are being abused daily in Nigeria. It is no longer a surprise nor does it itch the ear when such news and stories pass one’s ears. You get replies like: “No be today e start.” ” E no concern me.” ” It is no longer a new thing.”
It is alleged that even mothers are aware of this barbaric act as they give out their daughters to older men whom they have sexual relationships with. With these pushing so many girls out of the house and into the streets where they engage in far worse activities because mentally they have been damaged.
According to the World Bank, over 36% of girls in underdeveloped countries marry before the age of 18, and 12% before the age of 15.
Misconceptions about the use of contraceptives, and the inability to access them due to age, marital status or financial constraints, are also determinants of the age at which first pregnancy can occur. Another major contributing factor is sexual violence as 1 out of 3 girls in some communities reported their first sexual encounter as coerced.
Social consequences for unmarried pregnant teenage girls may include stigma, rejection or violence by partners, parents and peers, thereby perpetuating the cycle of poverty including early school dropout by the pregnant adolescent, especially in sub-Saharan Africa.
Girls who become pregnant before the age of 18 years are more likely to experience violence within marriage or partnership. Adolescent pregnancy and childbearing often lead girls to drop out of school, thereby jeopardizing their future education and employment opportunities; thus, giving up on their dreams and aspirations.
At the decision-making point of their lives, teens are gullible to sexual abuse and force which are just a few factors affecting teenage pregnancy.
According to the CDC, girls who feel down and sad, either while pregnant or after birth, who can’t tell their parents they’re pregnant, or are feeling scared, isolated, and alone can eventually fall into depression.
In the absence of proper support from the family or other adults, pregnant adolescents are less likely to eat well, exercise, or get plenty of rest.
Having at least one trusted, supportive adult or someone nearby in the community, if not a family member — is invaluable in helping them get the emotional support they need to stay healthy during this time.
The implementation of interventions to inform and empower young girls; and the increase in educational opportunities for girls can help delay the age of marriage among girls under 18 years of age.
Through education, interventions that combine curriculum-based sexuality education and the use of contraceptive education to adolescents is recommended. It would help reduce pregnancy rates in adolescents and improve the health service delivery to them as a means of facilitating their access to, and use of contraceptive information/services that will in turn reduce the rates of adolescent pregnancy.
KENNETH EMODI IS WITH THEWILL