The Matter of Young Women and Fatherless Children
I am not sure why I picked this issue to write about however, I interviewed 5 young women in the 23-29 age group and all of them have 1-3 children and by assesing their age and age of their children, one had a child as young as 15 years. While this is not news, it is a worrying trend; what happened to sex education? To condoms?
Let’s call this girl Poyo. So I asked Poyo, “are you with your child’s father?” And she turned mute then. No amount of prodding will give me an answer to that question. I wondered what might be the case. A rape? Incest? I intend to pursue this later.
The other lady I found interesting; I will call her Yabass. Yabass has 2 children; one aged 9 and the other 6. Yabass went to study in another part of the country as a caterer and return to meet another woman in what used to be she and her husbands’ home. She now lives with her brother and his wife in what to my understanding is a two room shack. I may be wrong but whatever they lived in is not good enough for 3 adults and 2 children.
The third girl I will call Kushe. Kushe is 28 and has an 8year old daughter. When asked why she’s not with the father of her child, she laughed and said: “he’s a rascal”. And I countered, ‘why did you have unprotected sex with a rascal?’ “I was young and did not know what I was doing”. Hmmm, sweet answer.
Well there are varying stories and reasons but this is just a microcosm of the many women in this country that find themselves as single parents with no support of a man. Some of them rape cases from some random guy and others by their own family members.
I realised that in Freetown, sex is not discussed, its acted out. Speaking with people I know and sharing my concern, they mentioned that most women are likely to go to bed with you the first time you speak to them. So if you make a hit and persevere enough you could be “rewarded”. These views are from both sexes. Since there is a lack of sex education among young people, you end up having the Yabass, Kushe and Poyo cases.
In Bo, the second largest city in Sierra Leone, the case of young girls carrying babies in even more alarming! The mothers of these kids look like they need help taking care of themselves; am not sure how they are able to care for their infants.
Of course Bo is largely rural and would just be a small rural town in Ghana for instance. It stands to make sense that you have lots of teenage pregnancies; however in a country where the median age is 19 years this presents a big issue. It means that young people who should be in school have become mothers and that also means that the government is missing key development goals. Sierra Leone is aiming at 30% women in decision making but with many of her youth either out of school and the females pregnant and have become mothers with no prospects of going back to school; the vision of 30% females in decision making and governance is in jeopardy.
In a previous post I mentioned the case of young girls prostituting at the Lungui airport (Read post here: https://tsikesossah.wordpress.com/2011/06/15/sierra-leone/). Am sure they have kids too (though some look as young as 15years), but perhaps what’s even more scary is STI infections iuncluding HIV. I will make a note to find out the prevalence rate for HIV when I next speak to my networks.
Notwithstanding poor sex education, reason and self-restraint, lack of employment, under-employment, and low wages (people earn under 20USD as a months’ salary and some directors of whole ministries earn under 400USD), means that people and mostly women have seek other means of income and sex for food or money is an easy option.
My experiences in Freetown and Bo in the South of Sierra Leone has strengthen my resolve and views that Sierra Leone does not need policy analysis and countless country reports and prognosis. Sierra Leone is like a huge jet on the run way ready to take off. This jet of a country is speeding down the runway and making speed; the only problem is that, it is eating away the runway and if it does not take-off soon, it will crush!
The “engineers” on the flight and on the ground all need to figure out how to get that jet off the run way and on a course that it not wasteful! Sierra Leone does not need workshops and seminars where money is spent on attendees as “administrative arrangement”. The time where taking must cease is here. The people of Sierra Leone do not need pity, they need to be pushed, even taunted to get out of your slumber!
As I find clarity in my development thinking and model a philosophy to go with the thinking…I find solace in that fact that Sierra Leone needs more help in getting its feet off the ground. No matter how much FDIs that come to Sierra Leone will change it. What the people need is personal development.
Teachings that empower people in their minds! No religion will do that…indeed, Sierra Leone is 50% Muslim and about 40% Christian; so there is no lack of mosques and Churches but what lacks it the truth that Sierra Leone can not be dependent on handouts, patronising salaries, politics of division and the notion that the only way to be successful is through a Western prescribed solutions.