Teenage Love in Senegal and Baby Dumping in Namibia: Why Sex is not for The Ignorant
Regular visitors to TalkAfrique.com may have noticed that a disproportional amount of space is dedicated to the issues affecting women in Africa. The reasons are obvious, to say the least. The issues affecting women in Africa are enormous, and they begin the very day the doctor or mid-wife says “It’s a girl”. Today, I discuss two disturbing statistics that are prevalent across the continent, at least, in most countries.
According to the UN World Health Organization, seventy percent (70%!) of teenage girls in Senegal are married. You would probably doubt this figure if the source was any other than the WHO. A report by the United Nations Children Fund early in the month showed that in Senegal, teenage pregnancies are responsible for 40% of maternal deaths in the country.
African women are under-represented in all sectors of society except in the poverty department. Figures such as indicated above continue to be real adversaries that need to be tackled bluntly. The situation in Senegal is not an isolated incidence but rather a pervasive war of attrition that needs to be won sooner than later. In Niger, 50% of girls are married before they are 15. A couple of month ago, we posted an article here with similar disturbing facts: nearly, 5000 schoolgirls in Johannesburg, South Africa, became pregnant in just one school calendar year. It is regrettable to say that most of these girls would never become what they dreamed of becoming: teachers, pastors, parliamentarians, ambassadors, or doctors.
In Namibia, it’s even perhaps more shocking. Reports coming to light show that baby-dumping by teenage girls is at all-time high. Most teenage girls admit that the plausible balance between carrying an unplanned pregnancy, the stigma attached to it, the rejection by family and the society and the difficulty in obtaining or affording abortion, is to simply dump the baby. According to media reports from the state health department, about 40 bodies of newborns are found each month in human waste flushed down toilets.
I would love to hope that these incidences are unique to Senegal and Namibia but I’m afraid it rather the opposite. It is estimated that 80 women die each day in Africa from procedures they adopt to terminate unwanted pregnancies. We have a society that sweeps thorny issues under the carpet and hope they go away. Like it or hate it, teens are having sex, an exercise that is not meant for the ignorant, because the consequences could be the difference between life and death, graduation and fallout, and success and failure. When a girl is brought up in a male-dominated society where the powerful man gets whatever he desires, equipping the poor girl with ignorance is essentially sentencing them to a life of a nightmare.
It is time to close the curtain on the era when mere mention of sex in the family or school was a taboo. African teens need know more; in fact they want to know more, about sex and how to protect themselves from teenage pregnancy, HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases. Whatever we’ve been doing for the past years is not working, at least, not as we expect. The figures don’t lie.