By Divine Ighovie
Jane Fonda said “If adolescent pregnancy prevention is to become a priority, then our strategy, as advocates, must contain two key elements: civic engagement and education”, this are the reasons why I sat with Sifon Udo the founder of Smart Moms Foundation, in the course of our conversation, I was told the sad story of a teenage mother named Queen who lives in Itu local government area of Akwa Ibom state.
Queen’s mother took ill when she was 16, things where so bad that it was difficult for them to feed let alone to pay the hospital bills that kept piling by the day. One day along came a man from Queen’s community who offered to pay the bills and assist then with feeding money, little did they know that it will boomerang in their faces.
His good deeds continued for a while until one day the Good Samaritan said he wasn’t going to keep spending his money if he doesn’t get Queen for himself and if they don’t meet his demand they will pay him every penny he had spent on their feeding and the hospital bills.
At this point, Queen, her mother and elder sister where left with no option than to give in to the pressure, a few months later Queen discovered she was pregnant and that’s how her life turned for the worse.
Sadly, Queen’s mother never recovered from the illness as she died a few months ago, now the young teenager is left to cater for herself and her infant. Ms Sifon informed me that Queen doesn’t have a decent bra for a mother who is breastfeeding. On the day we spoke Sifon showed me a bra she was going to give Queen to manage until she can afford to buy her a new one and that is one out of the many things Queen needs to survive.
With no parents and no roof over her head, Queen is currently residing in the same compound with the man who impregnated her but in the house of another single teenage mother. Sifon while narrating the story said, Queen is left alone to fend for herself and her infant son. The man is constantly drunk and Queen is his punching bag. Though the man is not married he is not responsible for their welfare.
While pointing out some of the causes of teenage pregnancy in the rural areas, Ms Sifon said poverty and the quest to survive exposes the girl child to early sexual life, also poor educational system and peer pressure, she also emphasized that their parents or guardian rarely cares how they survive, leaving them to live a care free life.
In 2018, the World Poverty Clock showed that Nigeria has overtaken India as the country with the most extreme poor people in the world, also Nigeria is said to be the 7th most populous country in the world and the most populous country in Africa with a large population of 201,623,008 million inhabitants, while 95,903,776 million people are living in extreme poverty and 63% of the total poverty populations are residing in the rural areas.
Also note that according to worldatlas.com in 2017 Nigeria was ranked 16th highest nation with teenage pregnancy in the world.
The government through the rural development funds both on the state and federal levels tries to develop and create access to the communities, funding for education, pieces of training, support essential development, health care and lot more but the funds seldom trickles down to the populace of these areas.
Ms Sifon said through the Smart moms Foundation they have over 50 young teenage girls who are between the ages of 14 and 18 under their umbrella despite not having any funder and for the narrative to change, schools and religious bodies should as a matter of urgency start teaching proper sex education in their separate institutions, skill acquisition should be encouraged and teen mothers should not be stigmatized.
Aside from proper education and skills trainings, Ms. Sifon called on the government, highly placed individuals in the society, stakeholders and NGO’s to do more for the people living in the rural areas and also there needs for transparency with the rural development funds.