Female high school dropouts given chance to forge new lives in Tanzania

Thu May 7, 2015 6:36am EDT
 
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By Kizito Makoye

DAR ES SALAAM (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Rahabu Kennedy was 17 when she got pregnant and dropped out of school in her village in northern Tanzania, crushing her dream to become a teacher.

One of about 8,000 teenage girls in the impoverished East African nation estimated to quit school each year due to pregnancy, Kennedy was stunned to find she was expecting a child, having received no sex education.

"I was very shocked. I had to run away from home because if I stayed my father would probably kill me. I had to join the man who impregnated me and we lived like husband and wife for two years," she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

The 22-year-old former student from Bukamba secondary school in Kahama district in the northern Shinyanga region said when her parents realized she had a child and was living with a man they demanded a dowry so she could be married.

"My boyfriend had nothing to give them, he was merely a casual laborer with a little income, so my father decided to take me back home," she said.

But no sooner had Kennedy gone back home to start a new life than she realized that she was pregnant again.

"I knew nothing about reproductive health at the time. I wished I could have protected myself. After delivering my first child we continued having sex. That was the biggest mistake," she said.

Kennedy, who now lives with her aunt in Kahama, is among a group of young women in Shinyanga now being trained on sexual and reproductive health while also learning vocational skills as part of a two-year project run by a non-government organization.   Continued...