At a Rotary meeting for Kyanja Metro, shocking statistics were shared by Dr. Gloria Kirungi Kasozi about teenage pregnancies. Dr Kirungi shared lessons from a clinical trial that was done in different schools in Wakiso District. The statistics were so appalling yet very true and happening right in our communities, even so to our very children. As if that’s not bad enough, most parents are largely not aware.
Between 2006 to 2016, 25% teenage of girls in Uganda got pregnant. It was discovered that 16% of girls below the age of 15 years were sexually active. 57% below the age of 18 years were sexually active. 28% of schoolgirls are sexually active and 80% of the sexually active schoolgirls get pregnant and 97% of the pregnant Girls drop out of school.
As the presentation stirred anger amongst the Rotarians, a discussion was sparked to establish the root cause of why the children are sexually active at the age of 15 -19 years. Is it a biological issue that we approach at the mercy of the wild hormones of this age group? I don’t think so! While this is an age group that faces the confusing transition to adult good, there’s enough research and knowledge on how we can guide them.
It was established that most teenagers are sexually active due to the fact that parents continue to prioritize their work over raising their children. In my interaction with some Girls in my community in Najjera, the Girls said that their parents are never home, and even when they are home, they are busy on their phones working or chatting with their friends. The root cause was discovered to be the widespread “remote-controlled parenting.” The dangerous gap that the busy and absent parents leave in the home!
Brenda, a 13year old girl said that she had carried out an abortion with the help of friends who had done it before. All this was under her parent’s noses who couldn’t notice anything out of ordinary in their daughter’s life. You can imagine what this ordeal left on this girl’s life, physically, emotionally, mentally, name it.
Activists continue to advocate for teenagers to get Family planning something which raises controversies amongst parents. To begin with, the question to face for any parent would be, ‘how did we get to this place where teenagers, our teenage children need Family planning?’ There’s a reason why it’s called “family” planning in the first place. It’s for a group of people that are of age to establish a family. As parents, the mismanagement of our families is leading our children to “crooked” family circumstances. In the reports shared, it was confirmed that most teenage pregnancies came from families with single parents compared to families with both parents.
This might seem like a drop in the ocean, but it’s an added drop. As students start their holidays, I feel compelled to stir us as parents to wake up and be at the forefront in the fight against this cancer in our communities. The holidays are around the corner, already here for some schools. We have to begin somewhere. How can we utilize the holidays to catch up with our children?
_Create routines for conversations and meet up with children. Everything that happens in the universe begins with intention. Habits are created with intentions. If you aim to create new habits and impart values to children it will take commitment and intentionality. Be specific; “I will be home by 7 pm every Tuesday, and spend 2hrs with the children.” It has to be that specific! Go over the world to protect that time. The beginning will be hard but eventually, you will get there with persistence.
_Engage the children in high-energy activities. When asked why teenagers are sexually active, Dr. Gloria said that their hormones are high and need to be engaged. Activities like dance, football or any other sports activities would help with spending their energy. Utilize weekends to schedule this. Again, be very specific; you could say “every Sunday from 4 pm-6 pm.” Give that time the same reverence you give work time. Don’t miss it, don’t postpone it unless it is IMPOSSIBLE.
Utilize “piece meal times.” Every moment you are with your children, make it count by being present. No matter how short it is, be in the moment. Ask them questions, give them compliments, and notice them. It’s these “small things” that enhance your friendship with them and over time they trust you enough to confide in you. Ask them about their friends and other areas that are special to them. Spend a minute more with the teacher, they spend a long time with your children, they notice more.
As I conclude, dear parent, begin somewhere, begin today. As they say, an idle mind is a devil’s workshop. The children need to be engaged in productive activities so they spend less on less engaging and educative activities. If you don’t fill their “plate” they will fill it with the wrong meal. You don’t have to figure it all out at the same time. You just have to get moving before its too late or much harder to turn the tide.