Wednesday, 9 March 2016

The need for sex education - Portia Treve

The prevalence of teenage pregnancy has become very common in Ghanaian society, especially among the youth and in primary and secondary schools. Volunteering with International Service in partnership with the Women Support Activist Group (WOSAG) has greatly increased my way of analysing issues surrounding teenage pregnancy. I used to have the notion that teenage pregnancy often happened among teenagers who have no educational background and no parental control, however the impression seems to be wrong because it can actually happen to anyone.

Portia practising a condom demonstration before our sensitisations in Banvim and Kanvili
The definition we use at WOSAG for teenage pregnancy is when an unmarried girl below the age of 20 gets pregnant. In some Ghanaian societies teenage pregnancy occurs among ages as low as 13 years. These unfortunate teenagers have little to no knowledge about how to avoid and prevent these unwanted pregnancies, and it could be said that they are also not fully developed enough both physically and mentally to produce a child. Teenage pregnancy has become a growing challenge in today’s Ghana. If care is not taken it may affect our country’s future because our potential future leaders, teachers and doctors are dropping out of school as a result of teenage pregnancy.

According to Joseph Tetteh, founder of the Foundation for Youth, Peace and Development, the following are some facts about the increase in the rate of teenage pregnancy in most of the rural areas in Ghana.

Culturally, even in this era of globalisation and information technology, many Ghanaians, especially in the rural communities, place a premium on child bearing as the most important role of women in society. In these communities, adolescent mothers enjoy considerable respect, pride and high statuses because of the way they were attended to as pregnant girls and subsequently as mothers. Many of the school girls are motivated by the status of the adolescent mothers and actually wish to be in the same situation. As a matter of fact, they placed motherhood above education in terms of importance.

I have also learned that there is a massive lack of discussion on the subject of sex with children because some parents feel it is improper to talk about sex with their children. They think talking to them about sex will encourage them to behave like adults and to talk about sex with other children and peers, which could lead to more curiosity. They might also want to practice what they have learned and see what happens, leading to teenage pregnancy.

I vividly remember when I was growing up that my mother never told me how to prevent an unwanted pregnancy, she only stressed on the consequences of teenage pregnancy, which should not have been the case.  I now think she should have talked to me about everything around teenage pregnancy and most importantly, how to prevent it. She should have told me about contraception, condoms, the pill and safe relationships.

Many teenage girls are pushed into early sex because they lack basic things like a school bag, sandals, a mathematical set, a decent dress, adequate meals and other modern necessities of life. Thus poverty in our communities is forcing many of our girls into early sex from lack of education.

Volunteering with WOSAG for the past nine weeks has opened my eyes to the real causes of teenage pregnancy. I noticed that children as young as nine have started menstruation, thus facilitating the early experience in their sex drive. This in a way can serve as a cause of teenage pregnancy, if these feelings are experienced at an earlier and earlier age and guidance is not given to them, it might lead to teenage pregnancy.

The increasing interest of the youth in exploring sex seems to be growing and developing in recent times because of influencing factors such as the internet. If not curbed with proper comprehensive sex education either by the formal sector or the informal sector, Ghana will continue to be plagued with the problems that are caused by teenage pregnancy. Sex education could be given through families, the communities, the schools and even through local NGOs such as WOSAG.

As the saying goes that no man is an island, these teenagers are growing up living in communities with peers all around them. It is believed that the young easily learn from one another. False information about sex can easily be circulated leading to peer pressure, negative attitudes and wrong practices, and eventually, unwanted teenage pregnancies. 

I also think the rapid growth of technology and the internet, although it is a necessary evil, causes the youth to go on adult websites and encourages their unrealistic approaches and attitudes towards sex.

With the above causes of teenage pregnancies and unwanted pregnancies, I think proper sex education is what is needed here. 

Condom demonstration during a WOSAG sensitisation in Banvim
In conclusion, the premium on child bearing, lack of basic needs, earlier adolescent sex drive, an increase in youth exploring sex, peer pressure, the media and most of all the lack of sex education leads to premature sex by the youth. Therefore, sex education should be the key in curbing teenage pregnancy because it keeps teenagers abreast with their sexual situations and conditions.

Author: Portia Treve

Edited by: Ysabelle Smith

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