Two Nigerian teenagers reportedly became pregnant for men whom they had sex with just so they could buy sanitary pad for them.
The incident happened in Akwa Ibom, Nigeria’s South-South, PREMIUM TIMES learnt. And the teenagers are said to be from poor families.
A campaigner against teenage pregnancy revealed this at a roundtable on child development hosted by PREMIUM TIMES in Uyo to mark the 2019 Children’s Day.
“We have two of our teen mothers, between the age of 16 and 19, who got pregnant because they could not afford sanitary pad, so they slept with men who promised to buy them the pad,” Sifon Udo, who runs an NGO, Smartsmothers Foundation, said at the roundtable.
Ms Udo attributed the girls’ predicament to poverty.
“There’s another (teenager) who slept with a man because of sweet and got pregnant!” she said.
“She is getting to 17, she was 15 when she got pregnant.”
Some brand of sanitary pad could go for as low as N250 in Nigeria. But some girls, especially in the country’s poor rural communities, lack the money to buy them, PREMIUM TIMES learnt.
“They (the girls) have given birth,” Ms Udo said.
“(But) because they have not been given the right care, even when they give birth they still don’t have the right information to pick up their lives and move on, and so they run into multiple pregnancies.
“We have a case of a 19-year-old who has two children already and she is pregnant with the third one.”
Ms Udo said teenage pregnancy was on the increase in Akwa Ibom rural communities.
“The key factor here is poverty, but there are cases of abuses, and parental neglects.
“We have a case of a teen mother, she was raped by an uncle who stayed close to them. She wanted to tell her parents about it, but they didn’t want to listen to her. They chased her out of the house.
“Another factor is, when these girls see how their friends are living big, they also want to be like them. They go for what they cannot afford and as a result give themselves out freely to men,” Ms Udo said.
Smartsmothers Foundation, she said, runs a network in Akwa Ibom where they make effort to rehabilitate teenage mothers through reorientation and skill acquisition.
Ms Udo said there was not much her organisation could do about the men who get teenage girls pregnant.
“The challenge we have is that most times before these girls come in, it is already too late. Most of them don’t even know how to locate those who got them pregnant,” she said.
“These stories are real. Most of the men who get these girls pregnant are the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) members who probably leave the area after their service year. Others are just regular men on the streets.
“In Obio Akpa, a developing community where you have a campus of the Akwa Ibom State University, young girls make it a competition to get pregnant – if I am your friend and I get pregnant, you are no more in my clique. I make you feel like you are no more in my class, I now have a kid, so I have many responsibilities. It’s like, look I have more money than you.
“This thing is a cycle, a teen mom will probably have her own female child take after her and also get pregnant the same way,” she said.
Other participants at the roundtable were Uduak Ekong, the chairperson of the Nigeria Association of Women Journalists (NAWOJ) in Akwa Ibom, and Imaobong Akpan, a blogger.
The participants talked on obstacles against child development in Nigeria, such as child labour, lack of education, labelling of children as witches, lack of mentoring, and poor implementation of child rights law.
“People have linked such (witchcraft) accusation to poverty, and it is usually in households where they are going through some tough phases – either the father is having hard luck, maybe he just lost a job, the mother is barely struggling to manage the little that is available – and suddenly this child that is obviously malnourished becomes the focus of attention.
“And someone would just give a hint – have you looked at this child? And then the next thing, the child is thrown out from the home, as we have heard and read in the past,” Mrs Ekong said, in her contribution at the roundtable.
“I have never come across a story where a son or a daughter of one big politician is labelled a witch,” she added.
A participant, Ms Akpan, said it could be difficult to bring to justice, pastors who tell parents that their children are witches.
“It’s a very dicey one because the parents or guardians who take these children to the pastors would hardly give information that could incriminate these pastors or prophets.
“You may not have sufficient evidence, except it was captured in a video. Most deliverance services in these churches are often private sessions between the pastors, parents, and the child involved. If we have some people caught and then punished for it, maybe others would sit up.
“I think society is defined by the level of exposure of its members.
“In Akwa Ibom, people watch a lot of Nollywood movies that tend to paint a picture of witches, and those pictures formed our perception generally – witches are supposed to look like old women, maybe, with bad teeth, going by pictures from Nollywood.
“Witches are supposed to look like children who are malnourished. Politicians’ children are not malnourished, so they don’t fit into the picture of a witch. A child in the village without proper nutrition fits perfectly into that picture,” she said.
PREMIUM TIMES spoke with Charles Udoh, the commissioner for information in Akwa Ibom, on the continuous branding of children as witches in the state, he said he is not aware of such case since Udom Emmanuel became governor about four years ago.
“To be honest with you, I haven’t heard of it, I haven’t encountered it (children being branded as witches and then pushed into the street) since I came here,” Mr Udoh said.
Mr Udoh, however, admitted seeing street children in Uyo, the Akwa Ibom capital.
He said the state government was planning to rid the streets of Uyo and other cities of destitute.
“If you look at it, before this administration came into power, there was so much noise about child molestation in Akwa Ibom, but the level of noise has reduced drastically. The government is very passionate about making sure the rights of children in the state is upheld,” the commissioner said while responding to a question on how effective the child rights law has been in the state.
“The government is also sustaining the free education programme and payment of WAEC fees to students in the state,” he said.