The Government and its partners have launched a campaign to end adolescence pregnancies through a series of initiatives to empower young girls to unlock their leadership potential and strict punishments for adults who defile and impregnate teenagers.
The new push to combat teenage pregnancies was announced yesterday as cabinet ministers, Members of Parliament and other stakeholders joined a little over 300 teenagers in the lower chamber of the parliament for the official launch of the 'Girl2Leader' national campaign.
It aims to inspire and empowering young girls to unlock their leadership potential, to embrace and nurture their leadership potential as well as identify challenges that block them from attaining leadership roles and ways to overcome them.
The Speaker of Parliament, Donatille Mukabalisa, told the participants that adults who continue to commit the crime of defilement and impregnating underage girls should be held accountable.
"Adults are among child defilement perpetrators. They have to know that it is a crime. I request every person to be involved, to report the suspects so that they are all held accountable," she said.
She reminded teachers and parents that though the duty to raise children is not easy, it was on the other hand rewarding if done well.
"We all know that that the duty to raise children is not simple but it is a good one and its fruits are reaped early. It is our responsibility to support them, to listen to them and to be good examples. We should allocate time to talk to our children, to listen and understand their issues," she said.
Looking into options
The Minister for Gender and Family Promotion, Espérance Nyirasafari, reminded participants that if efforts were put together, teenage pregnancies would be stopped.
"I have no doubt that if we all came together to fight this vice, we would succeed," she said.
Addressing journalists later, Nyirasafari said that while the Government is keen on advocating for abstinence, it is also aware that some teenagers are sexually active, which calls for fresh alternatives to protect them.
"We are aware that some of the teenagers are having sex and are discussing with other stakeholders like the Ministry of Health on how to start looking into safe sex. We are focusing on pregnancy but we are well aware that there are diseases like HIV that they can contract," she said.
18-year-old Joseline Izere, a student studying Physics, Chemistry and Biology at Mère du Verbe in Nyaruguru District, Southern Province, called on fellow teenagers to be confident and to aspire.
"We are lucky to have leaders championing our advancement, reminding us every day that a girl's place is not in the kitchen but anywhere she aspires to be. We can achieve whatever we put our minds to," she said.
Youth MP Clarisse Maniriho, who is only 23 years old, called on the youth to avoid cliques, to take advantage of the technology, and to read more.
Girl-to-leader campaign was started by the Women Global Political Leaders' Forum with an aim to train young girls and women early enough about leadership and politics. The Forum chose Rwanda as its headquarters on the African continent in April this year.