Address Early Marriage and Teenage Pregnancy in Tanzania

Chiku Lweno-Aboud discusses the issues of early marriage and teenage pregnancies in Tanzania.

I met Anna, Jamillah, and Manka a few days ago. These teenagers at different secondary schools in Dar es Salaam were excited after attending study tours to prominent companies as part of the celebrations of the Wold Population Day—July 11, 2016. “A journalist, an accountant, a doctor” were their preferred profession once they graduate from colleges and university. They dream…

But according to Tanzania Demographic and Health Survey (TDHS 2010) it is quite possible that none of these girls will graduate from high school, let alone have any of their dream jobs. In the survey it is estimated that while 78.4% Tanzanian girls are enrolled in primary schools only 9.6% will reach university. For boys on the other hand, 75.2% are enrolled for primary school and 18% reach university level. The stark differences are cause for concern for stakeholders who are implementing development strategies from community, national and international level.

According to the United Nations Secretary General, Ban Ki moon, “rectifying these inequalities is critical for the success of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.  That is why it includes the specific Goal of achieving gender equality and empowering all women and girls. I urge all Governments, businesses and civil society to support and invest in teenage girls.  Everyone deserves the benefits of economic growth and social progress.  Let us work together to ensure a life of security, dignity and opportunity for all”.

Among other things, Tanzania government’s response to the situation is by curbing teenage pregnancies. At the commemoration of the World Population Day in Dar es Salaam, Minister for Health, Community Development Gender, Elderly and Children, Ummy Mwalimu (MP) said that her ministry will table a bill to end early marriages and contribute to drastic reduction of teen pregnancies that will carry a “penalty will be up to 30 years in prison to anyone who impregnates a girl.”

Figures from the National Bureau of Statistics show that the number of early pregnancies increased from 23 per cent in 2010 to 27 per cent this year.Last month, activists recorded a big win after the High Court nullified sections 13 and 17 of the Marriage Act stating that they were unconstitutional for allowing marriage of persons (girls) under 18 years old.

Other prominent stakeholders working with the government to promote Sexual and Reproductive Health Services for the youth provide family planning services to this key segment of the population. Marie Stopes Tanzania for example, is running a special campaign for the youth known as Choose Life (Chagua Maisha). Twelve per cent of the 500,000 women reached by MST last year, were the youth, and there are strategies to reach at least 20% of the youth this year, says Dr. Joseph Komwihangiro, MST Director of Health Services.

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