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ATTITUDES, PERCEPTIONS AND NEEDS OF TEENAGERS, TEEN MOTHERS AND COMMUNITY MEMBERS TOWARDS TEENAGE PREGNANCY IN HUYE AND KICUKIRO DISTRICTS

The overall objective is to “conduct a participatory action research on attitudes, perceptions and needs of teenagers, teen mothers and community members, including people with disability, towards teenage pregnancy for effective implementation of the National Gender Policy and other policies and strategies that address teenage pregnancies, including the Sexual and Reproductive Health Policy”. From this main objective stem a series of thespecific objectives as detailed under the introductory chapter. The study used a qualitative approach and covered two districts purposively selected, namely Huye in Southern Province and Kicukiro in the City of Kigali. In addition to an extensive desk review, KIIs and FGDs were conducted with teenagers, teen mothers and parents of teen mothers. One overall finding is that teen mothers have huge needs, including limited access to SRH services, reintegration of schools and acceptance in the respective families and communities. Community attitudes and perceptions towards teen pregnancy are very negative. In relation to the specific objectives, the study shows that :

  • Attitudes & perceptions : teenage pregnancy outside wedlock is a social deviance ; it is perceived as a sign of parental failure. Some parents feel like the affected girl would be sent away from the family. Due to social pressure, parents would stop the pregnant girl from school. The pregnant girl would be abandoned to the man/boy responsible for the pregnancy. In sum, the pregnant girl/teen mother suffer from social stigma, shame and dishonor (therefore hard education re-entry), and in the worst scenario discrimination, which would lead to deprivation from access to legal rights and services ;
  • Needs : Access to service points, including information on sexual reproductive health and rights, family emotional support, vocational skills, school re-integration, family and community reintegration are the leading needs of teen mothers ;
  • Barriers affecting access to knowledge and skills for girls : Social cultural expectations, household labor division, family poverty, low sex negotiation skills, and lack of dialogue with parents ;
  • Challenges in accessing existing legal, health and psychosocial services are associated with low awareness about existing services, distance from home to the service point as compared to family resources, lack of family support, limited knowledge about sexual reproductive health rights ; misconception about the use of contraceptive methods and myths around sex
  • Major policy gaps : The role of the family in sexual education and the prevention of GBV is unclear ; there is a discrepancy between the policy ambitions and the budget ; GBV and sexual reproductive health are superficially mainstreamed in local development plans ; and there is weak coordination of existing GBV prevention initiatives ;
  • Long term strategies to prevent teen pregnancy and address the needs of teen mothers would include family and peer support and adolescent sex education right from the family.