“I didn’t do it alone”. These are the five words that constantly run through a teenage girl’s mind every single time she is on the receiving end of shame for having fallen pregnant “in her father’s house” as our African folk would phrase it.
Justifiably so, if you asked me, because why is it that as soon as society notices a school going girl throwing up (as our Nollywood movies have made that the ultimate sign of pregnancy ) she is labelled loose, promiscuous and her once bright future turned to mush?
Why is her future automatically pre-determined to be dark and now expected to amount to nothing? Three more illegitimate kids, poverty and a perpetual cycle is declared on the girl. Why is her mother the one to be the example of bad parenting? Why is she the one expected to put her schooling on hold, her dreams on pause to search for a job paying minimum wage to fend for her child? Where is the boy, most times even man, in all this?
It is interesting how a hundred percent of the blame is by default directed to the girl. All the boy has to do is deny and stick to his story. Even if the boy in question has the audacity to own up to it, he is most likely to come out with a scold and pointed finger, a few pats on the back from his peers and the nerve of it all, backed up by the statement ‘boys will be boys’.
According to a recent report by the Kenyan Government and the United Nations Population Fund, 13,000 girls leave school early every year due to pregnancy. The report stated that low income, low levels of education and little or no access to contraception and reproductive health are the major factors behind high teenage pregnancy rates in Kenya.
Some, on the other hand, abort the pregnancy out of shame, confusion or fear of rejection. Is it a wonder that abortion rates are getting higher?
I am by no means justifying abortion or encouraging teenage pregnancy, but I am saying that both parties and society as a whole need to play a part. The girl is pregnant, the damage has been done; now can we find a way to make the situation better?
Society as a whole needs to change this dysfunctional norm when it comes to dealing with pregnant teens. This is usually a “make it or break” time for them, because at the end of it all; ‘she did not do it alone.’
By Lucky Hassan