Voices of teen mothers from Rwanda

Teenage pregnancy is a worldwide public health problem, with unequal associated burden distribution across high and low income countries: 95% of births among adolescents occur in low, or middle, income countries.

In Rwanda, although the prevalence of teen pregnancies is lower than in the neighbouring countries (Tanzania, Uganda and Kenya), its rate has been steadily increasing over the last fifteen years. This has generated a strong concern among both government and civil society.

Over the last year, Girl Effect Rwanda has participated in a number of conversations on the issue of teen pregnancy which have involved different government and non-government stakeholders. It became clear that the causes of teen pregnancy are a combination of complex and interrelated factors, that require multilevel and multi component solutions. 

Government, civil society and communities themselves must work together to address issues at all levels from education, to service provision and the deep societal norms that prevent their access and uptake. Central to this is also the work towards prevention and fight against gender based violence (GBV). 

In 2019, Girl Effect Rwanda carried out a qualitative study via digitally trained peer to peer young female researchers (TEGAs) and spoke to teen mothers, teen fathers, parents, and influencers in order to understand more about the root causes of teen pregnancy in Rwanda. Whilst many research studies have been carried out on this issue, our research  is intended to support and complement the efforts of all organisations in the sector tackling this issue, through  bringing the perspective of girls and youth into the conversation, ensuring that more targeted programmes and  communications are developed specifically for girls and boys aged 15-19 years. 

The uniqueness and power of this research is that adolescent girls have opened up about their experiences, their worst moments, their fears, hopes and advice for others in their situation - all of which are invaluable insights that can be used by stakeholders working with teen mothers. Girl Effect, via its trusted multi-media youth brand, Ni Nyampinga, not only creates Social and Behaviour Change Communications programming on adolescent sexual and reproductive health (ASRH), but also works directly with teen and young mothers through its partnership with Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance

It is hoped that through listening to teen mothers themselves, we can formulate a communication strategy and approach that will contribute to the prevention of future teen pregnancies. Whilst teen pregnancy and motherhood can be the worst moments of an adolescent girl’s life, it is also important to show that there is still hope for the future. 

One of the teen moms we talked to as part of this qualitative study said: 

“My aspirations for the future are to go back to school and finish university. When I look at my future I see myself as a powerful woman. I still have hope even though I gave birth. Because life goes on regardless of my giving birth" - Girl, aged 21 from Bugesera, Rwanda 

You can download the report in full below! 

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