CHILDREN’S Dignity Forum (CDF), a non-governmental organisation, is spearheading a relentless battle to fight child marriage and teenage pregnancies to enable girls realise their educational dreams in Tarime District.
The NGO is now applying Sexual Reproductive Health (SRH) education as part of its measures to end the scourge of teenage pregnancies and child marriage in the area.
The SRH education is also expected to save young girls from Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs). SRH education targets primary schools pupils in five wards of Susuni, Manga Mwema, Nkende and Matongo.
Recently, 20 primary school teachers from the five wards attended a special SRH training supported by FORWARD UK and Comic Relief, also of the UK.
CDF Child Protection and Participation Officer Sophia Temba said the training was aimed at enabling teachers understand SRH and provide the same knowledge to their pupils. “If teachers understand SRH, they will take the education to the children and this is a continuation of the training,” She said.
The target is children aged between 9 to 25 years. Dr Placidia Rweyemamu of Tarime District Hospital, who was the main facilitator during the training, said that it was imperative to provide SRH knowledge to primary school teachers. “These (teachers) are the people who stay with the children for quite long.
It is important that they have SRH knowledge to be able to help the children,” he said. He said children must be made to recognise themselves and avoid engaging in dangerous acts that may result in teenage pregnancies, child marriage or even contracting STDs.
“Children who get SRH education stand a better chance of becoming responsible citizens when they grow up,” she explained. The teachers welcomed the training and promised to intensify the battle against child marriage and teenage pregnancies in their schools. They said they would be providing SRH education to pupils through sports and other means.
“This training enlightens our understanding on SRH and this enables us to keep the children aware of things that can lead to teenage pregnancy and child marriage,” said Stephen Rhobi, a teacher of Kemwita Primary School. Another teacher, Wakuru Juliet,of Nkende Primary School, said providing SRH education to schoolgirls is essential in order to reduce the problem of teenage pregnancies.
“After leaving here we are going to provide SRH education to our girl pupils to prevent child pregnancies,” she said. The teachers also commended efforts being done by CDF incollaboration with the government in Tarime District and other stakeholders to tackle child marriage and teenage pregnancies.
CDF is also leading ongoing campaigns aimed at ending female genital mutilation (FGM) in Mara Region where the custom is still widely seen as an important cultural tradition. During the training, the participants also discussed the effects of FGM and called for more efforts to tackle the outdated custom which subjects young girls to humiliation and severe pain.
“This time many children are aware of the effects of FGM but adults are ignorant. So, efforts should be directed to the adults,” said a teacher who pleaded to remain anonymous. Tarime District authorities estimate that 800 girls were subjected to the cut in various villages in December last year alone.
FGM is cited to be the major source of child marriages and massive school drop-outs among girls in Mara Region.