Teenage Pregnancy

It’s 11:00 am and the hot sun is starting to make our faces glisten with sweat as we walk through the congested huts (small houses about six feet high with grass thatched roofs) in one of the Internally Displaced Persons Camps in Gulu district a region in Northern Uganda that has experienced war for the last 22 years. I see a young beautiful girl, about 14 years walking out of the house which had a brick wall. She walks to the outside latrine (pit hole which is a toilet) and I can see that she is about to throw up. Her lips are dry and I conclude that she is dehydrated.

“That girl must be pregnant”, said Lucy who is my guide through the IDP Camp.

Many girls experience their first sexual encounter by the age of 12 years and because they do not have enough knowledge and access to information on contraceptives they end up with unwanted teenage pregnancies. There has been a social breakdown in Northern Uganda as a result of the insurgency. There is not much of parent-daughter accountability due to the abductions that have taken place over the years.

“Why did you conceive at early age”, I ask one of the teenage mothers.

“I wanted a sense of belonging because I know that once I bear children for this man, he will not leave me and he will love me more”.

As I sit on the mat with about 12 girls between the ages of 16-18 years carrying their children and others have toddlers running up and down, I can tell that some of these mothers are not excited about motherhood. The toddlers try to get their attention and the mothers just ignore them and raise their voices at them commanding them to stop what they are doing. The children make funny faces but the mothers are not amused.

“Why don’t you use contraceptives?” I ask.

“My husband would be very upset if he found out I am using contraceptives because he thinks that I will cheat on him and I will not conceive which means he will not be able know”, says Susan who would like to use birth control but is so scared of losing her “marriage”.

My heart is moved watching these young girls about a decade younger than me but as I look in their eyes, I can tell that the hardships they have experienced have made them look older than their age.

That evening as I lie on my bed in a small hotel room, I get a revelation that no matter which part of the world one lives in, having an unwanted pregnancy as a teenager is a difficult experience. There are very many risks involved because the body has not matured physically and it takes a huge toll on the emotions. There are many missed opportunities in life as a result of a teenage pregnancy. In many developing countries, that would be the end of school for a teenage mother.

Young girls out there, be very careful how you live your lives. There is a lot of a bright future that awaits you and don’t be distracted by a short term sexual pleasure.