GNA feature by Laudia Nunoo Sawer
Tema, 27 June, GNA - It was a bright Friday morning on June 9, 2017 when adolescent service providers in the Tema Metropolis led club members of Tema International School’s (TIS) Girls United into the adolescent corner at the Tema Manhean Health Centre to interact with some 39 pregnant girls.
The meeting which has been prescheduled by the health directorate was to enable the club members aged 16 and 17 to get firsthand information from their age mates who have found themselves pregnant and to learn a few life lessons from them.
The Girls United Club members were surprised to see these teenage girls happily chatting among themselves and laughing their hearts out as according to them, they were expecting to see some sorrowful, disappointed, and dejected teenagers.
The 39 teenage pregnant girls who were also at the premises for antenatal care, were dressed in their maternity wears with about 80 per cent of them wearing head scarfs making them look older than their ages.
Midwives at the centre revealed that the various sizes of their protruding stomachs represented the weeks of their gestation which ranged between six and 38 weeks.
Two of them revealed that they were 13 years of age, the rest were between the ages of 14 and 19.
The stories of these pregnant girls were touching and interesting as some were drugged by the fathers of their unborn children while others willingly agreed to engage in sexual activities which resulted in their pregnancies.
Most of them were carrying their first pregnancy while a few already have had the experience of child birth.
One of the two 13-year-old pregnant girls, narrating circumstances surrounding her pregnancy in the Ga language, said she travelled from the Volta Region and settled at the U-Compound, a suburb of Tema Manhean, some three years ago in search of her father.
According to her, she had to relocate to the area when she was informed by traditional priests in the Volta Region that her mother who was catering for her had been captured by the gods and would not be seen for three years.
She noted that, she was shocked to hear on her arrival at Tema Manhean that her father had also gone through a similar initiation and was now a traditional priest, adding that she then turned to her paternal relatives for support but they told her she was on her own as their family do not educate a female child.
This forced her into the selling of cooked rice with a woman in the area, but her madam died, and the deceased woman’s children offered to return her to the Volta Region an offer she turned down.
The 13-year-old pregnant girl went ahead to say that, she met a 17-year-old boy who took up the responsibility to send her back to school without demanding sexual favours.
This however did not last, as she alleged that her benefactor informed her that his relatives had cautioned him against helping her as they claimed she would ditch him after completing the school therefore requesting to have unprotected sex with her which she agreed to do, resulting in her six-month old pregnancy.
Another pregnant girl aged 17, who kept robbing her left shoulder due to the pain from the mandatory tetanus injection she received before the meeting, said she followed her friend to a party, where she was raped after her drink was laced with drugs.
According to her, the incident was planned by her friend and the boy who before the party have given money and gifts to her friend to be given to her to convince her to date him without her knowledge.
She said the family of the boy had come to an agreement with her relatives to perform her marital rites after delivering when she found out that she was pregnant.
She used her experience to advise the youth not to trust and follow friends to parties and other places as that could be a ploy to get them into trouble.
Patience, also 17 years old, said she got into a relationship with a 23-year-old man who was supporting her education as her parents were not in a position to do so.
She noted however that she opted to drop out of school and make a family with the man, a decision she said she has not regretted making.
Grace, who has a two-weeks old baby boy at the age of 17, revealed that she was residing in the same house with the father of her baby, who she started dating secretly after completing her basic education.
She said they engaged in sexual activities secretly whenever her parents left home for work while she was at home awaiting her Basic Education Certificate Examination (BECE) results.
For her, she has learnt her lessons the hard way as she described the pregnancy and delivery journey as painful. She therefore advised adolescents not to rush into sexual activities but focus on their education.
She also appealed to parents to develop the interest in activities their children engage in especially in their absence.
It is inspiring to note that majority of these pregnant girls have resolved to either acquire a vocation or return to school after delivering as a way to provide a better future for their children.
Some of them who voluntary engaged in sexual intercourse, defended their actions and questioned why they should use condoms to protect themselves if they could not abstain.
“Why should we eat toffees with wrappers, we prefer having sex raw as that is more enjoyable”, they noted.
To reorient the minds of such adolescents to abstain or use protection, Dr John Yabani, Tema Metropolitan Health Director told the Ghana News Agency that his outfit was embarking on a number of educational programmes at schools, communities, churches, organizations and adolescent corners across the Metropolis.
Dr Yabani advised teenage girls to develop and practice safety measures such that would ensure that they do not fall prey to rapists and evil minded persons in society.
He said statistics collated by the directorate from health facilities in the Metropolis revealed that 713 teenage pregnant girls aged between 10 and 19 attended antenatal in 2016.
Eighty-five criminal abortions which resulted in complications among the age group were also seen, while 1,333 adolescents were put on various family planning policies.