By Lolo Amevinya
Adolescent pregnancy is dangerous and sometimes fatal. It is the leading cause of death for adolescent girls affecting the poorest girls in many African countries. (WHO) Teenage pregnancy endangers the life of the teen as well as that of the baby. In many developing countries, teenage pregnancy is rarely an accidental result of sexual experimentation. Several community practices including forced marriages have rendered many teenage girls pregnant. In 2018, the Volta Region of Ghana recorded the highest prevalence rate of teenage pregnancy in the country. Many teenage girls that are supposed to be in school have dropped out and forced into marriages and to give birth. This very eminent problem led to the birth of ITeMs - Impacting Teen Mothers Initiative in some parts of the Volta region of Ghana.
ITeMs team after a program with some teen mothers
ITeMs is an initiative of some teachers in the region to serve as an intervention to the high prevalence rate of teenage pregnancy with the hopes of dealing with the roots of the problem. The story of a teenage girl Grace, who got pregnant while pursuing her junior high school education served as the inspiration to spark the initiative into action. Grace, unlike, many teenage girls that get pregnant, despite the stigma that came with carrying a baby at her age insisted on staying on school till she earns her certificate. Her boldness and persistence have been a motivation for many teen mothers in the community.
Impacting Teen Mothers Initiative reaches out to teen mothers in Takuve, a community in the Volta region. The initiative takes teen mothers through mentorship sessions, literacy and vocational skills training with the hopes to get them to start entrepreneurial ventures that will help them earn a living and to make them self-reliant. Some of the girls are also supported to return to school. Ultimately, these teen mothers become the ambassadors that reecho the message that the life of the teenager that gets pregnant is not over and should not be relegated to the background. They become the voice that empowers other teen mothers and also advises younger girls against actions that will get them pregnant.
ITeMs believes this is a great way to tackle the menace of teenage pregnancy in the community and region.
ITeMs team offering skills training to some teen mothers
The initiative has mainly seen support from friends who assist them with materials and provisions to be given to teen mothers to support their sustenance. The initiative admits individual attitudinal barriers as one of the major challenges they have faced in their quest to tackle the problem of teenage pregnancy in the community. It has been observed that many of the teenage girls have internalized powerful socio-cultural values that had fed their desire to be pregnant as a proof of one’s womanhood; a proud endeavour to them.
ITeMs team making a donation to teen mothers
Speaking to the Co-Team Lead of the initiative, Joshua Andrews-Egyir, he added that; “some of the teenage mothers were shy to open up and seek support as they had been victimized and looked down upon. We had to engage them from home holding sessions on growth mindset and confidence building which gradually got them to open up to a world of possibilities.”
The initiative shared a remarkable success story of how there has not been a record of teenage pregnancy in their school community since the inception of the intervention. The Impacting Teen Mothers Initiative, seeing significant results in their work in their community has plans to expand the initiative to other communities to tackle the growing threat in the Volta Region. With their ultimate focus on the impact and sustainability of their efforts, they hinted however that they will not rush things so that they don’t become overwhelmed.
ITeMs Teen Coordinators before a training session
In a final word, Joshua Andrews-Egyir sent out an outstanding word of counsel to young people with a desire to lead a social change. He said; “identify the community need and align your passion to it because everything else is derived from that. Then start! It will be challenging but keep going. Be the solution to the social issue. Be the missing piece in the global puzzle. Be the change the world seeks.”
Kudos to the Impacting Teen Mothers Initiative team; Nana Esi who serves as Co-Team Lead, Mariam Abdul-Rahman and Vida Agyeman who both work as Teens Coordinators, and other young people leading the movement of change in Africa and the world at large.
All pictures shared by Joshua Andrews-Egyir, Co-Team Lead, ITeMs.