The words of these scholars bring to mind the innocence of the child specie. Edna St Vincent Millay says childhood is not from birth to a certain age and at a certain age. The child is grown and puts away childish things. Cormac McCarthy said that it was good that God kept the truths of life from the young as they were starting out or else they’d have no heart to start at all.
At the beginning of a child’s life on planet earth, vices are excluded from his/ her existence but as the stages of life begins to evolve around the child, there comes the period in a child’s life that broaden their knowledge of evil, pain, sorrow, tears and suffering in the world. From conception, a baby is enveloped with the embryo, an innocent specie yet unknown to the world, still existing in the mother’s womb in the great beyond, the specie is in touch with the omniscient, connected to a single entity. On that fateful day when conception cycle is completed, the innocent specie is exposed to the world, the cruelty, the evil and the condemnation associated with the world. As an innocent child, the specie thinks and feels everything in the world is pure and blameless but as days, weeks, months and years roll by, the child is made to decipher between good and bad, day and night, short and tall, light and darkness and gradually the innocence of the child starts fading away.
The child is faced with the battle of struggling to overcome the challenges life has presented. Gradually the child starts moving with the tide of evil vices and the innocence fades away like rainfall washing the surface of the earth. The child is being introduced into the wild world where evil is permissible. The exposure of the female child to evil vices leads the child to an unpredictable condition called teenage pregnancy.
But what is teenage pregnancy? Teenage pregnancy is pregnancy in human females under the age of 15 to 20 at the time the conception ends. Every day, in developing countries 20,000 girls under age 18 give birth, this amounts to 7.2 million births a year and if all pregnancies are included the number of adolescent pregnancies is much higher. According to a report by the United Nations population fund, pregnancies among girls less than 18 years of age have irreparable consequences in terms of sexual and reproductive health and poses high development costs in perpetuating the cycle of poverty. Health consequences of not being physically ready for childbirth can lead to complications as low birth weight, premature labour, anemia, pre-eclampsia and malnutrition. Teenage pregnancy also affects the girl’s education and income potential as many are forced to drop out of school which threatens future opportunities and economic prospects.
In developing countries, teenage pregnancy is usually associated with social issues like lower educational levels and high rate of poverty. Teenage pregnancy in such countries is usually outside marriage and carries a stigma. In some societies, early marriage and traditional gender roles are factors in the rate of teenage pregnancy, the lack of education on safe sex either from parents or schools is a cause and lack of lessons on how to overcome pressure from peer group is yet another cause.
Most teenage pregnancies in the under developed world appear to be unplanned. Situations such as illicit use of drugs and alcohol may possibly encourage unintended sexual activity. Studies in South Africa have found out that 11 to 20 percent of pregnancies are a direct result of rape while 60 percent of teenage mothers had unwanted sexual experiences preceding their pregnancy. According to the teen pregnancy encyclopedia of women’s health published in 2004 approximately 15 million girls under the age of 20 in the world have a child each year. Estimates were that 20 to 60 percent of these pregnancies in developing countries are mistimed and unwanted. Poverty is associated with the increased rate of teenage pregnancy. Childhood environments where girls are exposed to abuse, domestic violence and family strife are more likely to get teenage girls pregnant. Teenage pregnancy is a social problem that has eaten deep into the walls of society but what can be done to fight this scourge?
A holistic approach is required to address teenage pregnancy not by focusing on changing the behaviour of girls but addressing the underlying reasons of adolescent pregnancy such as poverty, gender inequality, social pressure, coercion, lack of sex education, child marriage, sexual abuse and violence. This approach should include providing age appropriate comprehensive sexuality education for all young people, investing in the girl child education, preventing child marriage, putting a stop to domestic violence and coercion, education on ways to tackle peer pressure, providing a safe and conducive environment devoid of sexual abuse for the child’s upbringing and building gender equitable societies by empowering girls and engaging men and boys. These will assist to prevent teenage pregnancy and put an end to the scourge in our society.