EARLY MARRIAGES AND TEENAGE PREGNANCIES, WHERE HAS OUR GIRLS GONE WRONG?

By

John Moono

Is sex really sweet? Does practice makes perfect when it comes to sex? Is it a matter of intuition? Has our society lost its moral education? So many questions spring to mind when the topic of early marriages and teenage pregnancies come up. Sex before marriage is a sin declares the Bible. You don’t practice sex to be better at it; it is as simple as that.
Zambia is regarded as a third world country or developing country. Development of this country depends on an educated society which values its moral education and is not prepared to lose their values just because of education. Instead, education of the citizenry will help cement their appreciation of the societal values and teach the world about its societal values. Upholding our societal values and beliefs in high esteem helps the citizenry to also improve the self esteem and patriotism will be well championed by every citizen of the country.
Zambia as a country has been adversely affected by this emerging scourge of early marriages and teenage pregnancies. A number of social commentators have voiced a number of concerns on the scourge and their message has been that; this needs concerted efforts from all well-meaning citizens of this country. A number of reasons have been advanced as being among the main causes of the scourge of early marriages and teenage pregnancies; chief among the reasons advanced is poverty.
Being a third world country or a developing country, Zambia’s developmental levels cannot be compared to the most developed countries in the world. Therefore, the low levels of development in this country has the impacted the poverty levels of the country. Much of the country’s rural population lives in poverty. Poverty has been cited as the main factor as to why our bright and intelligent sisters are dropping out of school to pursue life in a home as a mother or as a wife or both. Due to the high levels of poverty, in some cases some girls have been used to save the family’s dire situation. Some parents still don’t see the need to send a girl-child to school and to others it is a sheer wastage of resources educating a girl-child who eventually end up getting married. There is a popular adage which says that once you educate a girl-child, you have educated the whole family. This adage goes to prove wrong parents that think that educating a girl-child is a sheer wastage of resources. Statistics have shown that girl children once married, they support their family as compared to the boy children. However, thinking that girl children are not supposed to go to school is a serious fallacy on the part of the parents who still harbor such thoughts. The parents’ inability to provide for the family should not cost a girl child her education. Many girls have sacrificed their education just to pursue a career in a home and to save the family’s dire financial situation.
Another factor worth of note that is greatly contributing to early marriages and teenage pregnancies is traditional beliefs and cultures. Traditionally, the girl’s place is not in a classroom but the kitchen and to tend their home. Culturally and traditionally speaking, girls from a very tend age, they are told that their future does not lie in getting educated and building on from there, but the future is in a home as a wife and a mother as well as taking care of the husband. They are told that their husbands will provide for their basic needs and that it is not for them to provide for the family. Since this is culturally embedded it is one of the most difficult situations to change because it borders on the mindset of people who all their lives have believed in the principle of prioritising the education of the boy child. Traditional beliefs and cultures see it as a success if a young girl is able to marry at an early age because the rationale behind is that she had the best upbringing by her parents and the community at large.
Furthermore, another contributing factor is peer pressure. Peer pressure has also been constantly quoted as one of the main cause of our beautiful and intelligent sisters turning to marriages. At tertiary level of education, peers tend to have targets with regards to what boyfriends or sugar-daddies (or investors) should do for them once they get hooked up with one. This tends to make others who don’t have investors to start envying their peers. Girls are a weaker sex of the two and are usually driven by the desire to possess something better than their peers or at par with their peers. Girls who have peers who have sugar-daddies feel pressured to have a sugar-daddy as well so that when they meet as peers they will also have a story to tell their peers. One cannot ride on her friends luck goes a famous saying. Many girls have ended up having children outside wedlock because of trying to emulate their peers. This pressure tends to make the girls forgo the spot on upbringing just to compete with their peers on matters that are not beneficial to their livelihood on a long-term basis.

In addition, a famous adage says that curiosity killed a cat. Most teens tend to be ignorant on how to handle the body changes that take place in their lives at this stage of their lives. On top of that, they also tend to be inexperienced to handle some the issues that crop up in their lives coupled with peer pressure that is more rampant in adolescence. They end up trying and eventually experimenting some of the things that they learn in school, watch on television and hear from their friends as well as the emergence of social media and the internet. Social media and the internet are some of the most influential tools in terms of social behavior and general conduct. Social media and the internet have not been used in the correct manner by the Zambian society to say the least. Many people have had a bad taste of social media and the internet because of the kind of exposure it has on the mind of the young adolescents. This is because many young adolescents who get bad vices form the internet tend to think that is the correct way of doing things and try to emulate what they saw on the internet. Proper use of social media and the internet can lead to greater positive emancipation of the young mind of the young adolescent.
Lack of meaning development means lack of recreational facilities. Many Zambian communities around the country are dire need of proper recreational facilities. An idle mind is the devil’s workshop. Truly and frankly speaking, young people today don’t have recreational facilities were they would pass their leisure time and channel the energy to something positive that will bring about positive change in their lives. The lack of recreational facilities around the country has led many young adolescent to engage in illicit activities whose end result is usually a serious societal concern in the frame of early marriages and teenage pregnancies. The provision of proper recreational facilities countrywide will help produce a better generation that will in turn mean greater nation leadership to take over from the emerging and current crop of national leaders. Neglect of this serious social factor means that the country is headed for doom.
What should be or could be done about this problem which is fast growing into a pandemic, should be bone urgently and it needs concerted effort from everyone in society and personalities from all walks of life. And where does the solution lie in this case.
Before there is mention of what the government is able to do to ensure that the scourge is fought and not just fought but fought and won with a great distinction, there is every need to start it from the grass root. First and foremost, everything points to our beloved and well-cultured parents who have all the abilities in their arsenal to solve this problem. Charity begins at home goes a famous adage. Parents should not become shopkeepers for their own children but should be the voice that will stand for the betterment of the girl-child. Parents should first empower the girl-child to be very assertive in their approach to challenges life has to throw at them. Assertiveness is a quality that is rare exhibited by many girl-children when faced with a predicament of dropping out of school in preference to marriage. This is the duty on the hands of our dear parents and it starts from home and not anywhere else.
In addition, parents who come from parents who come from poverty stricken homes should be taught to think outside the box about the education of their children particularly girls who are always the victim of dropping out of school in times of financial challenges at home. Furthermore, giving them fish everyday is not the solution but teaching them how to fish is the solution they need. Teaching them entrepreneurship and farming skills will greatly help them become more self-sustainable. The self-sustainability of the parents from poverty stricken homes is good news for the parents as they will be able to generate income that would enable them sponsor their children’s educational needs.
Putting up of recreational facilities would do a great deal of help in combating the scourge of early marriages and teenage pregnancies. It is a pity to go round the country and discover the sorry predicament the country is facing at the moment. The current status quo in the country is that there are little or no recreational facilities for our youths to use during their leisure time. There is every need from everyone concerned to see to it that recreational facilities are put up that will help our youths not to be idle. It is not only the duty of the government but it can start from community level. Members of community depending on the need in a particular community can team up and put something up that will greatly help the welfare of the youths. In addition, corporate bodies need to come on board and plough back to the communities they operate in. It is also the duty of the government to make sure that social amenities are provided to its citizens. The government through the local authorities put up a number of recreational facilities. These recreational facilities will also help the country to produce more sports men and women because the youths will be able to exhibit their talents in these recreational facilities. Rome was not built in a day but a journey of a thousand miles begins with a step. The onus is on every well meaning citizen to improve the area they are based in not just because of today but for the betterment of tomorrow
Finally, government should consider stiffening the law on early marriages and teenage pregnancies. Offenders should be given punishment due to them in order to discourage any parents who might be harbouring thoughts of marrying off their child at an early age at the expense of her educational ambition. Fast track courts should be set up countrywide so as to effectively and instantly deal with would be offenders. Support should also be given to communities that will strongly and vehemently oppose the marrying off young girls at the expense of their education.

Published by MyWritings

A Writer, A Diplomat in Waiting, Climate Change Advocate and a Football Administrator

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