Teenage and young motherhood is on the rise today, something I strongly think that the economists and the government as well of our different African countries should look at intensively. I am one of them (economists). It will have great impact on both the social and economic growth. Of course I understand some countries are encountering it more than others so where it applies I would urge us look at it. I have also been debating whether I should take a different turn with my future career and do a masters and PHD in gender economics where such a topic may fall under and how our economy is affected.
The thing is in In Kenya; nearly 18 percent of adolescent girls between the ages of 15 and 19 are mothers. When adolescent girls become mothers, their opportunities for economic and educational growth are limited. It is unfortunate that most people think ah! It is her problem, she should have known better than to get pregnant at such a young age but the truth is unless we support these girls our economy at national level suffers as well. So we should have both measures to prevent early pregnancies among our young people and at the same time elevate those who are already in the situation. Also 45 percent of the maternal deaths today are from teenage mothers. That is quite a high percentage, almost half the total number. I won’t bore you with statistics though.
Look at it this way,
If our young mothers drop out of school and are not able to go back completely then they are not able to fully participate in the growth of this country, They will do odd jobs here and there for no one will want to hire them without proper qualifications and thus a fall back in the number of tax payers which is a major source of revenue for the government as it is then able to provide facilities to the mwananchi. I can see someone whisper, but the government doesn’t do much for us. Well, it wouldn’t be able to do anything at all if there were no taxes.
The young mother cannot fend for herself and so the economic burden shifts to her caregivers, her parents, guardians who have decided to support her. If she loses all hopes and refuses to continue with her life she will forever with her child be dependent to them. In some instances she is more likely to get other kids again which then are dependent on her caregivers. Simple scenario, say the caregiver wanted to invest in the country according to his plans and now he has to take care of his grandbaby and thus the investment will have to hold. Not saying then that the baby should suffer so that the grandfather may invest but it holds him back in that simple manner; see why the more we should support these girls to go ahead as opposed to stay in the same position.
Sometimes the economic burden shifts to society, where the girl is abandoned and so she feels best to give up her child in a home or worse case scenarios, throw away her baby somewhere with the hope that someone will pick the baby up and take care of it. More street kids that may lead to increase crime rates. The homes also may be full and thus the caregivers in those homes are not able to fully care for these children or forced to take care of only a certain number. So where do the rest go to?
It leads to poverty. I think the more the child grows the more he or she needs and this just makes it hard for the mother to keep up with especially if she has low income. The cycle of poverty then continues from generation to generation. So it is a strong factor. On the other hand we loose skilled human capital as a country.
I feel to cure is important but prevention will always override it. Let us support the young mothers how best we can, trust me they need it, I needed it. Wouldn’t have survived without it but at the same time let us find ways to prevent it. Sex educators’ maybe?
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