Health Ministry Launches “No Sex For Grades Campaign”

Freetown, April, 20, 2015 (MOHS) – The National Secretariat for the Reduction of Teenage Pregnancy in the Ministries of Health and Sanitation and Social Welfare, Gender and Children’s Affairs on Friday 17th April 2015 launched an awareness raising campaign on the theme: “No Sex for Grades Campaign” at the Health Ministry conference room, Youyi Building in Freetown.

The Coordinator for the Reduction of Teenage Pregnancy and Acting Programme Manager, School and Adolescent Health Programme, Madam Rugiatu Kanu disclosed that the Ministry has supported the reduction of teenage pregnancy across the country that is contributing immensely to increase the brighter future of teenagers in Sierra Leone.

She said the aim of the campaign is to educate teenagers, especially pupils across the country, to recognize the negative impact early sex has on their health and educational output as well as empower them with information to make healthy choices in their sexual and reproductive health.

Madam Kanu reiterated that the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) outbreak in May 2014 affected all facets of development, mainly education culminating in the closure of schools at all levels across the country since July 2014.

She added that the outbreak had similarly affected the sexual behavior and attitude of some adolescent girls affirming that there are some occurrences of teenage pregnancy in the country from surveys conducted with partners and recalled that a survey conducted in 2008 indicates that 34% of pregnancy occurs among teenage girls.

The Coordinator further that having sex for grades has current and future impact on education and job opportunities for the girl child articulating that teenage pregnancy has also been identified as a determinant for school dropout for girls, that the ultimate pregnancy for young girls is ranked as the third most common reason for them dropping out from school (UNICEF 2008) and enlightened that girls may succeed to have sex for grades but that their future performance is not guaranteed while their ability to cope with work could be very challenging and that access to job opportunities is limited that might lead to ultimate poverty.

She furthered that the negative health implications on teenage girls is enormous and cannot be overemphasized maintaining that having sex without a condom cannot only lead to teenage pregnancy but also Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs), especially HIVAIDS, which can have a debilitating effect with short and long time complications on the current and future health of girls.

She added that pregnancy for some teenage girls could a bitter experience due to immaturity of the pelvis, that majority of them develop obstetric complications including obstructed labor that requires caesarean section and asserted that if immediate action is not taken, it may lead to further complications like obstetric fistula, virginal or rectal fistulas.

She also affirmed that one third of teenage pregnancy ends in unsafe abortions that sometimes result to bleeding, sepsis, infertility, and death and quoted the 2010 Multi-Indicator Cluster Survey (MICS) which states that about 40% of maternal deaths occurs as a result of teenage pregnancy.

“Teenage pregnancy can cause nutrition and gynecological implications as poor nutrition have negative impacts on both the teenage mother and the unborn child. A recent systematic review found out that adolescent pregnancy is associated with premature delivery, stillbirths, fatal distress, birth asphyxia, low birth weight and miscarriage.

Also, stillbirths and deaths in the first week of life are 50% higher among babies born to mothers younger than 20 years compared to babies born to mothers between 20-29 years old (WHO 2012)”, she intimated.

Madam Kanu highlighted that according to the new Sexual Offences Act 2011, persons below the age of 18 years can give consent to sexual intercourse but stressed that the consent would not be accepted in a court of law as defense in cases of alleged offences against underage persons adding that the Act, which some Parliamentarians believe would address the moral decadences that has overtaken the Sierra Leone society, outlines additional general provisions related to offences involving mental defectives and children, sexual harassment, incest, human trafficking, pornography and forced marriages of girls under the age of consent among others.

The Director of Gender Affairs, Ministry of Social Welfare Gender and Children’s Affairs, Charles Vandi advised people to refrain for setting teenage pregnancy cases at home as family issues.

He also affirmed that it is rare to stand witness against perpetrators in the court of law but however admonished people to believe and trust in the judicial system that is working hard to prevent teenage pregnancy and called on parents and guardians to promote the campaign and empower the girl child so that they can help them and the country.

The Health Adviser of Save the Children in Sierra Leone, Madam Amie Kamara said that her organization would continue to support the campaign to actualize its aims to reduce teenage pregnancy adding that Save the Children is supporting the campaign due to the negative impact it has on teenage pregnancy and subsequent school dropouts.

She informed that after the campaign, her organization would compile the result and share it with the National Secretariat for the Reduction of Teenage Pregnancy to revise its strategies for the process to be sustainable and owned by Government.

Madam Amie Kamara went on to state that her organization is monitoring the process to see how girls are educated, how teachers are supporting to promote the campaign in their school curriculum, reiterated that the campaign is apt to reduce teenage pregnancy and commended stakeholders for their efforts to minimize teenage pregnancy in the country.

Credit: New Citizen Newspaper