LIWOPAC joins fight against childhood pregnancy

 

Here is a girl, call her Miss X. She looks young and aged less than 18 years.  She is also pregnant. Child pregnancy seems to be a normal occurrence here in Lindi.

I walk closer and ask her about her pregnancy. She looks at me in a doubting manner. It appears she didn’t expect any question from me. After a while, she answers: “I am doing fine.” Miss X is 16 years old. Her real name is Sharifa. She is a resident of Kilwa Masoko in Lindi Region of Southern Tanzania.

Shariffa left school when she was 11 and got married in the same year. Her marriage was short-lived. . The husband chose to escape. There is a Swahili proverb that states: “Something you don’t understand is comparable to total darkness.” Actually, her current pregnancy is not the first one. She already has a two year-old baby at home.

There are many young mothers like Shariffa in Southern Tanzania. It is said that the social environment, culture and traditions are key factors in early marriages and child pregnancy. Poor family management and the quest for wealth by most parents have forced many girls to leave their homes and get married. Some of them are aged less than 18 years.

Godfrey Zambi, the Lindi Regional Commissioner, when asked to comment on the issue, says that child pregnancy and early marriages are caused by irresponsive parenting and poverty. “Families prefer forcing young girls to get married for the sake receiving dowry.”

The local initiation traditions commonly known as jando and unyago also cause early marriages and childhood pregnancy. “Jando and Unyagoceremonies are mainly for youth initiation. During the ceremonies, the youth are trained to control their sexual appetite,” Zambi says, adding that Liwale, Kilwa, Nachingwea and Lindi Rural are districts where the ceremonies are quite common.

There is a scientifically proven fact that child pregnancy, especially for girls aged below 18, can led to the abnormal children and cause deaths of young mothers. Girls aged below 18 are considered immature for reproduction.. Current records show that there were 32 pregnancies of girls aged below 18 years in Lindi in the year 2016. Among them were 13 primary school girls.. "We are working with NGOs based in Lindi to provide education on safe marriages and also engage the society to know problems caused by child pregnancy and early marriages,” the Lindi RC says.

On the other hand, the Lindi Women Paralegal Aid Center (LIPAWOC), which is an FCS grantee, conducts various seminars on women and children rights. The LIPAWOC director, Cosma Bulu, said in an interview with this correspondent that LIPAWOC had identified poverty and poor knowledge of women on reproduction issues as key causes of child pregrancy and early marriages.

Bulu adds that the divorce of parents is yet another factor that leads towards child pregnancy and early marriages. “There is high rate of divorce in this region, which both influences and forces many girls to go for early marriages.

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