Tanzania: Early pregnancies threaten girls’ education

Tanzania: Early pregnancies threaten girls’ education

Date: June 10, 2015
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Dar es Salaam: 10 June: As Tanzania continues with the countdown to the expiry of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and the SADC Protocol on Gender and Development, young girls in the country’s coastal regions are far from realising their dream of a brighter future.

Aziza Nangwa, a journalist and participant at the third Tanzania SADC Gender Summit, presented a case study following her in-depth study into the causes of teenage pregnancy in Kisarawe. She noted that shortage of accommodation for secondary school girls in the Kisarawe districts is a contributing factor to early marriages with more girls dropping out of school every year. Nangwa notes that most schools in the district do not provide hostels for their pupils.

According to a 2010 Muhimbili University of Health and Allied Sciences study by P.E Makundi, in Tanzania, pregnancy is one of the major reasons for school dropout among teenage girls. In 2007, pregnancy accounted to 21.9 % of secondary schools drop out. This problem of teenage pregnancy threatens to reverse the gains Tanzania has made in ensuring that girls access primary education. According to the 2014 SADC Gender Protocol Barometer, Tanzania is the only country in SADC with more girls than boys enrolled in primary education.

Nangwa says the shortage of hostels for students in the coastal region makes it hard for school authorities to provide maximum supervision to students who are learning far away from home. This lack of supervision has become an enabling factor to teenage pregnancy.

“Many schools do not have hostels for both male and female students, instead they live in rented houses, and it becomes hard to supervise them,” says Nangwa.

Nangwa also chronicled how she has been able to travel to the region’s deltas to compile this story. Nagwa who says she is passionate about the well being of young girls, highlighted that the situation that teenage girls find themselves in is heartbreaking.

She also cited the shortage of water in the area as an added disadvantage as girls constantly have to travel long distances in search of water, making them vulnerable to abuse. “Searching for water in the mid-night is very risky.” She added that women are often coerced into having sexual intercourse with the men who help carry their water.

In compiling her case study, Nangwa passed through Primary schools in 17 Deltas, and these all revealed that due to lack of education and cultural practices, the female students drop out of schools for circumcision and for early marriage practices. In Tanzania, female genital mutilation is practised in eleven mainland regions and it affects 18% of the female population.

According to the 2014 SADC Gender Protocol Barometer, early marriages is impeding girls’ progress and perpetuating gender inequality. In the case of Tanzania, a woman’s parents can consent on her behalf to marriage under the Law of Marriage Act. In other SADC countries, the issue of consent with regards to customary marriage is problematic. Under customary law, often in conflict with common law, parents can ‘give away’ their daughters in marriage or in some cases even sell them. Furthermore, it is questionable whether a girl who enters into marriage at the age of puberty would have an understanding and knowledge to be fully aware of what she is entering into.

This article is part of the Gender Links News Service special coverage of the SADC Gender Protocol Summits underway across the region, offering fresh views on everyday news.




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