Youth and Traditional Leaders Attend Dialogue on Teenage Pregnancy
Thursday, 14th July 2016
Miss Sicarr (right) listens keenly to a strong pointIn observance of World Population Day 2016, the Ministry of Youth and Sports (MYS), with funding from the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), on July 11 sponsored a day-long dialogue among traditional leaders, young women, youth and youth leaders on teenage pregnancy. Held under this year’s global theme: “Investing in Teenage Girls”, localized to mean ‘Reduction of Teenage Pregnancy in Liberia’, the meeting, held in Zwedru, Grand Gedeh County, drew 50 participants from five counties in southeastern Liberia – Sinoe, Grand Kru, Maryland, Rivergee, and the host county. According to MYS’ Adolescent Sexual Reproduction Health (ASRH) Desk Officer Mawen E.J. Morris, the dialogue was meant for participants to derive strategies and action plans that would help lower “the high rate of teenage pregnancy in Liberia, which currently stands at 38%.” Ms. Morris, speaking to journalists in Zwedru said: “We organized this regional consultation so we can come up with views on how to help reduce teenage pregnancy, which is something we have to look at critically in Liberia.” “To do that, we need to start at the lower level, with the traditional leaders and the youth themselves. There is need that Liberia invests in teenage girls”. She further said that young people need to be educated on how to access family planning services through the provision of youth friendly sexual reproductive health services available in most parts of the country. “The Ministry of Youth and Sports, through the ASRH program will continue to partner with other organizations to help especially teenage girls in the rural parts of the country to help their cause,” she added. The discussion witnessed particularly the teenage girl participants and the traditional leaders civilly exchanging frank views on what both sides believed are some of the major root causes of teenage pregnancy in the country. The girls pointed out that “some parents are responsible for the problem because they use their little girls as breadwinners for the home, by sending the children in the streets, where they offered sex for money to men who abused them.” They also noted that early marriage had been another factor promoting teenage pregnancy in Liberia, something they added was encouraged by most parents, especially in rural settings. For their part, the traditional leaders stated that “indiscipline” on the part of most underage girls is mainly to blame for the situation, complaining that in the name of “human rights” adolescent girls leave home at any time, at their own will and visit places where they solicit money for sex from unscrupulous boys and men, like night clubs and video centers, which forced them into teenage pregnancy. Strategies and Action Plans Among some of the strategies proffered, the participants agreed to take a number of actions in their communities to help remedy the problem, including creating awareness about the negative effects teenage pregnancy and the benefits of preserving oneself to become mature before having sex. They promised to do so through town hall meetings, family planning messages, radio talk shows, training of peer educators, dramatization, and regular youth meetings. Meanwhile, MYS coordinators from the participating counties appealed to the ministry on behalf of their counterparts elsewhere for “empowerment” to constantly visit their communities with awareness messages to help deal with the situation. Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection focal person based in Grand Gedeh County Moses Neal, and the county’s health team staff responsible for reproductive health, Matilda Billy facilitated while MYS team members moderated the dialogue. Topics covered centered around the global theme of World Population Day 2016: ‘’Investing in Teenage Girls”, Global Situation on Girls, Liberia country context on teenage girls, and the Risks of Adolescence Pregnancy. Others were Consequences of Teenage Pregnancy (Effects & Challenges), including associated risks —high rates of family instability, behavioral problems, developmental delays, poor success in school, high rates of abuse and neglect, factors which lead to the high possibility of making adolescents parents. A similar dialogue is scheduled to take place shortly, in Monrovia, Montserrado County.
Photo Credit: MYS P.A
Photo Credit: MYS P.A