Featured Storyteller

GHANA: Raising the Alarm on Teenage Pregnancy

Araba
Posted February 7, 2017 from Ghana
Photo by GPE/ Stephan Bachenheimer (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Araba urges action to equip girls with the information they need to own their bodies and make their own choices.

“We don’t want to be rushed into adulthood.

In my village, junior high school is the highest education level available, which means that most students are finished with school by age 15. Afterward, girls compete with each other to give birth.

Becoming a young mother has prestige. A girl’s family members celebrate when shegives birth and they dress in white to christen the babies. If a girl reaches her 20s and she has not yet given birth she becomes the talk of the village—people think she is barren.

I ask, why the hurry? Even as we grow into adolescents, we are still enjoying our childhood. We still play and share innocent laughs. We gossip with our peers on our way to fetch water from the village standpipe. We have girly discussions on menstruation, boys, pimples, and the latest beauty products to use. No one should take away this treasured part of our lives. We don’t want to be rushed into adulthood.

I avoided becoming pregnant at a young age because of my class teacher, the only mentor I had in my village. I was a precocious girl by nature and I told myself I would follow her example to become the next female teacher. My mentor drummed it in my ears well: I can only achieve my dreams through education. Therefore, I did not stand for mediocrity. My fondness for my mentor motivated me to resist conforming to the village standard for young girls and to instead pursue my own standards.

Most girls in the village do not have a mentor to look up to. I have to lift my eyes and face the reality here. Teenagers themselves celebrate teenage pregnancy, with all its health and economic complications. They aren’t driven to pursue their goals and be “somebody”. And even if they are driven, they aren’t always able to make choices about their own bodies.

Mansa is a 19-year-old young woman with two children who got pregnant when she was 14. I asked her, “Why did you not protect yourself if you knew you were sexually active?”

Mansa has heard of drugs that prevent pregnancies, but she doesn’t have much knowledge about them or access to them. She doesn’t buy condoms for fear of the sellers labeling her as a ‘bad girl’.

Mansa told me she tried to abort her first pregnancy when she discovered it. A friend directed her to a lab technician who operates in secrecy as an ‘abortion doctor’. He wouldn’t agree to perform the abortion until he had raped her, leaving her with bruises. Mansa went through with the abortion, but this ‘sex ultimatum’ deterred her from returning to this man for subsequent abortions. Once her first child was born, Mansa was seen as an adult, and she felt she had to continue having children.

Mansa’s story made me wonder why issues of birth control and abortion are hushed and silenced. Abortion is frowned upon in my village, a taboo meant to ensure that girls preserve themselves until properly married. But most of the young ones are sexually active. Many clandestinely employ dangerous chemicals to abort unwanted pregnancies or, like Mansa, go to fake doctors who sexually abuse them.

Girls dare not report abuse meted out by supposed ‘abortion doctors’. They suffer alone from the abuse and shame. They bear the brunt of the loss and pain.

Young women need information in their adolescent yearswhen they are developing their sexual drives and curiosity. When I was in school, there was scant information on abortion or sexual and reproductive health and rights.

I lost three classmates who died from using crude methods to end their pregnancies. They had no information to arm them in the most volatile stage of their lives. We need to educate girls on the pros and cons and guide them to make their own decisions.

Abortion is illegal in Ghana except in certain extenuating circumstances such as rape or incest, orwhen the mother’s life is in danger. When will it be totally legal without qualifying it? We need to get good professionals who can provide abortions and save lives. Why does all the shame fall to girls? Where are the boys who are responsible for their pregnancies? Where are the men who are getting children pregnant?

Precocious child as I am, I am raising the alarm. I say let’s do something about the knowledge gap. Let information on choices flow easily and readily to every teenager in the village. Let girls own their own bodies and make their choices.


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Comments 25

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  • Elsa Ampaw
    Feb 07, 2017
    Feb 07, 2017

     i love the story and i personally love the part that speaks about mentorship. i think if mothers can mentor their girls well this problem can help reduce as the old saying goes "charity begins at home" but the question is, does the mothers have an eye on their girls to check them??. i doubt if they do that. but i still think mothers should be enforced to do that. from that stage we can push to their teachers in school and responsible older people in the village to also keep watch on the young girls in their neighbourhood after that some training can be giving to the general public (even to boys-they also need to know the dangers they put these girls into) on these (teenage pregancy, its precautions, abstainance and abortion).. GREAT PIECE. KEEP IT UP...

  • Araba
    Feb 08, 2017
    Feb 08, 2017

    Thanks Elsa, for your encouragement. I love the mentorship aspect too. We can explore possible  creative ways of doing that in the future.

  • nessa s
    Feb 08, 2017
    Feb 08, 2017

    Good of you to bring this to our attention. I'm very glad you ask "where are the boys who are responsible?" : this is a cry from throughout the world, and so much more education everywhere (as well as legal changes where possible) needs to be put into place to help spare these girls the pain and possible life endangerment. I don't think you are precocious (except in a nice way!) - you are alerting people to horrible things! N x 

  • Araba
    Feb 08, 2017
    Feb 08, 2017

    Thanks Nessa s for your comments

  • danadabbous
    Feb 08, 2017
    Feb 08, 2017

    Dear Araba,

    Thank you for sharing this story. You are right when you say that all the shame falls to the girls and they are usually held accountable for all of it. This is the tragic truth that we need to change. I agree that so much needs to be accomplished for the harsh ways of thinking to change, more awareness and education on forms of protection in Ghana need to take place, and these abortion doctors need to be held accountable. These women should not live in fear or shame. I encourage you to continue raising your voice and take action. 

    Take Care

    Dana 

  • Araba
    Feb 08, 2017
    Feb 08, 2017

    Thanks for your encouragement

  • irad
    Feb 09, 2017
    Feb 09, 2017

    Thanks  Araba  but I think  in the adolescence stage need to take care for girls especial in sex education and public education and how  to protect themselves .

    best regards

    Erad

  • Araba
    Feb 12, 2017
    Feb 12, 2017

    Erad, i totally agree with you

  • Anjana Vaidya
    Feb 09, 2017
    Feb 09, 2017

    Dear Araba,

    Very sad to know about the tendency of teenager mothers in your country. Its really very vulnerable situation for girls for their reproductive health and life. Thank you for sharing your experience and your effort. I wish you a very best wishes for your mission.

    In solidarity,

    anjana

  • Sophia Atadana
    Feb 10, 2017
    Feb 10, 2017

    Thanks Araba for sharing and  the courage to do this work. Girls do really need to know their sexual rights and how to exercise those rights.

  • Araba
    Feb 12, 2017
    Feb 12, 2017

    Adisatu, its a rights for all girls.Thanks for buying -in 

  • Adanna
    Feb 11, 2017
    Feb 11, 2017

    Dear Araba,

    Thank you for sharing your story. 

    The importance of a mentor whether in a personal or professional capacity cannot be over emphasized. 

    I am glad you had a mentor you listened to and looked up to.

    Love,

    Adanna

  • Araba
    Feb 12, 2017
    Feb 12, 2017

     Adanna, i totally agree with you. we need mentors in almost all spheres of life.

  • Aramide Oikelome
    Feb 11, 2017
    Feb 11, 2017

    Dear Araba,

    Yours is a very touching story that encapsulates the injustice meted out to our girls. It is so sad that many girls today are ripped of their innocence and childhood fantasies and hurried into emergency adulthood. It is very sad too that the boys and men that are responsible for it all are left to walk freely as champions while the girls bear the brunt of shame and pain.

    Thank you for carrying the light and showing the way to nobility and purposeful living!

    Please continue to carry the light so that our girls can be well informed and adequately empowered to drive the much needed change.

    Love and Light!

    Aramide Oikelome

  • Araba
    Feb 12, 2017
    Feb 12, 2017

    Aramide, you have inspired me to continue   with my fight for the rights of girls.  i totally agree with you, many girls are hurried into emergency adulthood.    Lets do what we can to save most of them if not all.

  • Kardis
    Feb 12, 2017
    Feb 12, 2017

    Hello Araba,

    It is sad our rule of law and justice in Ghana seem to be for the rich and privileged, leaving our rural areas with such lawlessness, allowing boys and men get away with such ignorance, wickedness and irresponsibility.

     I admire the passion behind this story and your desire to cause a change and impact these teenage girls. In my personal opinion With regard to the issue of mentorship I believe if Mensa is supported and empowered with other girls to come out and share their regret and story with other teenage girls it will go a long way to inspire and reduce the rate of teenage pregnancy  In her community and even the nation at large . 

    Bless you so much.

  • Araba
    Feb 12, 2017
    Feb 12, 2017

    Thanks Kardis for your comments. i totally agree with you. 

  • leila Kigha
    Feb 12, 2017
    Feb 12, 2017

    This is awesome my dear! I totally agree with you. Let our girls enjoy their teenage hood and not be rushed into adulthood. 

    Courage in your endeavours and abundance of blessings and love

  • Araba
    Feb 13, 2017
    Feb 13, 2017

    Thanks Leila.i agree with you

  • Sally maforchi Mboumien
    Feb 13, 2017
    Feb 13, 2017

    Hello Araba I am glad you are saying it the way it is and equally telling a way forward. I am sure this good and just course which our communities are turning a blind eye to will be won soonest. Thanks for highlighting the core issue in these lines " Most girls in the village do not have a mentor to look up to. I have to lift my eyes and face the reality here. Teenagers themselves celebrate teenage pregnancy, with all its health and economic complications. They aren’t driven to pursue their goals and be “somebody”. And even if they are driven, they aren’t always able to make choices about their own bodies."

    Let our communities truly acknowledge the pressures of an adolescent girl and give her the help she deserves.

  • Araba
    Feb 13, 2017
    Feb 13, 2017

    That the whole idea my dear. Thanks for buying -in

  • Elvire
    Feb 15, 2017
    Feb 15, 2017

    Kudos, Araba.

    thanks for sharing and please press on!

  • piyushaa_s
    Feb 21, 2017
    Feb 21, 2017

    This is a good question..where are the boys? Why only girls suffer anytime if something happens wrong...why our society is very low minded..only blames to girls...if a girl get punishment..boys should also punish for doing wrong with a girl. But we live in that planet where boys are above the girls.. we should shame on our government.. rules.. societies.

  • LillianVB
    Feb 23, 2017
    Feb 23, 2017

    Dear Araba,

    This is a powerful story that speaks for any typical African village girl. Thanks for being the change and role model you are. Often times in such villages the nearest institution and adult females shape the thinking and aspirations of young girls. When the only institution is a school at admits girls up to 15 with no prospects for continuity because of lack of options, there will always be a limitation hence narrowing options for girls and driving them to the 'norm' that society has defined. Sadly their true reality! You were lucky to have a mentor, I see the value of role models and mentors in our lives.

    Good work kudos! 

  • helen.ng
    Mar 27, 2017
    Mar 27, 2017

    Thank you for sharing, Araba. I completely agree with you in that no girl, or no one in general, should have to be rushed into adulthood. Our best years our those spent as youth and adolescents, with minimal responsibilities and duties. You are also absolutely right in that girls need to be more thoroughly educated regarding birth control, pregnancy, and alternative options. Our bodies are delicate beings, and everyone should have full say in what happens to us. This applies to abortions, too. It is extremely unfortunate to hear that they are illegal in Ghana, but this is a deprivation of one's human right to decide what happens to them -- whether or not one wants to start a family should be one's decision, and not someone else's.