It is not surprising that teenage pregnancy, one of the social issues in both developed and developing countries has received much attention in recent times. According to UNESCO, 2013, a country’s development is closely linked to the well-being of its adolescents and young people because they represent the future of very society.
The term adolescent refers to young people between the ages of 10 to 19 years.
Teenage pregnancy also known as Adolescent pregnancy is a global problem that occurs in developed and developing countries including Ghana. They occur in marginalized communities which is mostly driven by parental neglect, poverty or financial constraints, peer influence, limited knowledge on sexual and reproductive health issues just to mention a few. At the international level, it has been estimated that about 21 million girls aged 15 to 19 and 2 million girls aged under 15 become pregnant in developing countries.
A report by ‘save the child’ indicates that annually 13 million children are born to women under age 20 worldwide and more than 90% of these births occur to women in developing countries and the World Health Organization (WHO) fact sheet of 2015 also states that about 16 million adolescent girls gives birth each year.
In Ghana, adolescent represents 22.4% of the entire population and the rate at which teenage pregnancy increases annually is at a high spate. Thirty percent (30%) of all births registered in Ghana in 2014 were by adolescent and 14.2% adolescent between the ages of 15 to 19 had begun child bearing.
The prevalence of teenage pregnancy is a common trend in the Ghanaian society especially among adolescents in the basic, junior and senior level of education.
A case was recorded during the 2009 Basic Education Certificate Examination (BECE) at the Ho Municipality in the Volta Region where 2 girls were victims of teenage pregnancy out of the thousands that sat for the final examination.
What causes these pregnancies?
Parents’ negligence of their core duties in providing basic upkeep needs for their children precisely their adolescent girls. These needs comprises adequate food, accommodation, sanitary pads and enabling environment that engenders healthy communication between parents and their children.
Peer influence another principal factor in promoting teenage pregnancies in various communities. These comes about as a result of experimentation, a feeling of a sense of belonging to the group due to limited parental control. A study conducted by Afenyadu and Goparadu, (2003) identified peer influence as one of the important factors driving the sexual behavior of male and female in the Dodowa community.
Transactional sex as a result financial problem. In a study conducted by Gyesaw and Ankomah, (2013), some adolescent girls narrated the financial challenges they faced and how they exchanged sex for material to cater for their well-being since many of their parents could not provide their basic needs.
Other factors include the lack of sexual and reproductive health education. In most Ghanaian communities, children are not allowed to discuss sex issues openly, unlike the olden days where they received sex education through the performance of puberty rites. But in contemporary times due to urbanization these are seldomlly performed.
As of 2019, in a speech delivered by Tina Mensah, Deputy Minister of Health at the Maiden edition of the Marie Stopes Youth Advisory Board Parliament on Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) stated that Ghana’s teenage pregnancy and adolescent childbearing rate still holds at 14.2%.
Teenage pregnancy aside it posing effect on health also affect the rapid population growth of the country as well as prevents the young ones from reaching and achieving their career goals and ambitions.
And so what are the preventive measures?
If these can be curbed then sex education should be a hallmark in raising awareness on the need to stop premarital sex and responsible parenting must be encouraged.
Just as Anne Coolen, Country Director for Marie Stopes Ghana said, Adolescents and young ones are the insurance for the future of this country.
And so if there is any single investment governments, NGOs and other supporting agencies must make then it must be in the health, education and the skills acquisition of the vulnerable teenagers or young ones since they are the reflection of the future.
By: Celestina Kyereboah
A level 300 student of Ghana Institute of Journalism (GIJ)