UNPROTECTED premarital sex among adolescent girls in Rukwa Region is one of the factors causing early or unwanted pregnancy and school dropout.
According to a survey conducted by the ‘Daily News’ last year in Sumbawanga and Nkasi districts, adolescent girls start engaging in premarital sex at tender age, although sex outside marriage is regarded a taboo.
Poverty, ignorance of sexual and reproductive health issues and adolescents’ desire to experiment sexual pleasure are among the factors believed to drive them into premarital sex, according to a source.
Speaking to this paper during the survey Ms Annakled Nkale (65) from Mkangale in the small town of Namanyere in Nkasi District admitted that some mothers in the district were encouraging their teen daughters to use family planning methods to delay early or unwanted pregnancy until they finished both primary and secondary education.
“We are doing this for two major reasons. First, due to the alarming rate of early pregnancy cases in the region and second due to the fear of stigma associated with pregnancy outside the wedlock and losing family support once the family realises that the girl has been impregnated. So, parents, especially mothers, encourage their teen school-going daughters to use family planning methods, including taking contraceptives so that they may finish their studies safely,” she added.
Another woman, who preferred anonymity, said although it was a taboo to talk about sex to teen girls, some mothers were encouraging their daughters to use contraceptives to prevent them from becoming impregnated, while they were still studying.
“We actually know each other. My neighbour last year confided to me that she had been encouraging her teen daughter to take birth control pills after she experienced her first menstrual period while she was in Standard Five...the girl will this year join Form One. We are doing this because our teen daughters are engaging in unprotected premarital sex,” she explained.
For his part, Kabwe Ward Councillor Asante Lubisha in Nkasi District told this paper that many adolescents in the ward were engaging in premarital sex. The Tanzanian Demographic and Health Survey (TDHS) 2015/16 shows that 29 per cent of teens and schoolgoing girls aged 15-19 years have either been impregnated or given birth.
Rukwa Regional Medical Officer (RMO), Dr Boniface Kasululu, told this paper that birth control pills were safe, though users could experience slight complications.
“Some of the teens have been attending adolescent reproductive health training which empowers them to know and exercise their rights, including a right to delay early pregnancy and to refuse or avoid unwanted sexual intercourse,” explained the RMO.
According to the 2019- 2025 strategic plan draft on the elimination of early and school pregnancy in Rukwa Region, in three years (from 2017 to August 2019), 722 teen girls terminated their studies after being impregnated out of them 171 were from primary schools and 551 were from secondary schools.
Joining the effort, Plan International Tanzania has secured Nok 50,375,188 equivalent to over 12bn/- from the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation Framework (Norad) to implement an integrated approach to prevent or end early pregnancy and forced marriage in Rukwa Region from 2020-2024.
The integrated approach on the elimination of early and school pregnancy and early marriage is implemented through Plan International Tanzania in collaboration with four partner organisations, including Youth Education through Sports Tanzania (Yes Tanzania), Rukwa Sustainable Organisation (Rusudeco), People’s Development Forums (PDF) and Rafiki SDO.
The project aims at achieving five key outcomes, including keeping girls in school until they reach the age of 18 years.
Yes Tanzania Coordinator Navina Mutabazi said adolescents had limited knowledge about sexual and reproductive health, and knew little about puberty, sexual health, pregnancy or reproduction. This ignorance of reproductive health, including the threat of HIV/Aids may have consequences for the country.