Teenage pregnancy remains a big issue confronting the Ghanaian society. It is particularly widespread in the Upper West Region. Over the years, the Wa West District, Wa East District, Sissala West, and the Daffima Bussie Issa District continue to record high cases of teenage girls fast becoming pregnant.
Teenage pregnancy poses both adverse health and socio-economic consequences for the victims, societies, and the country (Ghana) at large. Despite many campaigns in the last couple of years by some local and international organizations, the issues of teenage pregnancy continue to defeat stakeholders’ efforts in tackling the canker.
From Bulenga to Funsi; Kulpong to Loggu and Wasei to Du- West; Talawona to Wekaba and Bussie to Fian; the issue of teenage pregnancy is not news as these communities among others have witnessed the future aspirations and dreams of young girls defeated as a result of teenage pregnancy.
It is important to note that, the issues must not be seen as society or community level responsibility, rather with a wider scope where all actors must renew commitment with government demonstrating leadership and responsibility in finding lasting solutions to the problem.
Haven engaged in evaluating donor support projects and working with community-level structures for project interventions, my experience points to the fact that irresponsible parenting, cultural norms and poverty are the cardinal factors responsible for the increasing number of teenage pregnancy in the Upper West Region.
Most parents, in these hard-hit districts with a high incidence of teenage pregnancy, regards their girl- child as a ‘free-range poultry bird’.
They do not ensure that the basic needs of the young girls are met and most often these young girls have to labour and depend on men before they could afford GH$5.00 to buy a sanitary pad. These offers from young boys will always be exchanged for sexual pleasures. Most parents and mothers, in particular, do push their young girls into the act of flirting with Men.
The scenarios are pitiful. If a mother enjoys watching funny clips in a mobile device of young girls who have no working means of making money, what do you expect from the girl’s lifeclass? She will continue to be with men in other to maintain her class and this ends in early pregnancy.
Another set of drivers of teenage pregnancy is social factors which include, cultural norms and practices, where young men take advantage and force young girls into marriage. Most of these young men deceived these vulnerable girls into sexual pleasures by promising them with juicy life after marriage. This so-called marriage relationship ends up in teenage pregnancy. It is said that, in the days where societies placed a premium on virginity before marriage and pre-marital pregnancy casts shame on girls’ families, parents are no more.
The shame of marrying none virgin girls is no more a cultural significance. The culture of forced marriage and elopement cannot be ignored in the debate. In these instances, Men forcefully captures young girls into marriage, thereby getting them pregnant. These teenage girls end up becoming destitute or placed in a difficult position of having no choice but to get married.
The poverty situation in the Upper West Region is worrying as most families could not afford the quality education and basic needs of their young girls. In some instances, the teenage girl becomes the medium to the family to leverage on their poverty situation. The act of engaging with too many suitors ends in teenage pregnancy. Let me be quick to add that, Although the Upper West Region has more qualified and high-class personalities in the field of medicine, academia, and all major sectors of Ghana, the question remains, whether there is a trickle-down effect of their success to the masses of impoverished people in the region?
We must accept the reality that; the faith and future of young girls are under attack by the yearning desire of both adult and teenage boys who abuse and take advantage of these vulnerable girls. What is more striking being that, some of these girls engaged in unsafe abortions, while others have become twice and even some extreme cases thrice teenage mothers as they give birth and become pregnant before attaining age 18? Men and boys destroying the future of these young girls must be ashamed of their actions.
Also, the lack of punitive measures, weak legal enforcement regime coupled with weakening powers of traditional authorities have accounted for the high incidence of teenage pregnancy. Upper West Region has reached a crisis level as the region record over 1,000 teenage cases annually.
It is time for us as people to stand against teenage pregnancy if only we indeed want to build a greater future and inclusive society for our people. Young girls too deserve better. To achieve this, the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection, the Upper West Regional Coordinating Council, MMDAs, local communities and development partners must prioritize the issues by fashioning out a holistic approach strategic action to tackle the issues.
Author; Tahiru Lukman
Position; Youth Activist, Dev’t Consultant & Pan- African Author