Zion shares her story of teen pregnancy in Uganda

Zion*'s story - The violent truth about teenage pregnancy

Zion, 16, is eight months pregnant. She lives near Ngogwe in Uganda.

I finished Primary 7, and then went to stay with my father for Senior 1. I only started term 1 on St Cornelius day. In the holidays, I went to the islands to see my mother. But I found that she is too poor.

Someone came, and he started telling me things. I met him in December; he was a shopkeeper, and 18 years old. And I started asking because we were poor, but when they give you, they take. And I agreed. I didn’t know I was pregnant when I came back from the islands. 

But then I found out. My father told me, “You go from here. You go to your aunt.” He’s done providing me with care. He told me that he doesn’t have money he can waste on me. And he told me to leave the school.

I don’t even have a phone, and if I try to get a phone…if you call the man, he doesn’t answer. A nice doctor tried to search for the man, but he’s gone away.

I wanted to kill myself, because of this problem. But my aunt told me, “You’ll live, and you’ll stay with me. You can stay here. We will fight and struggle.”

I had wanted to become a nurse. Those nurses I see, they always look smart, they have good behaviour, good manners. After giving birth, I will suffer with my aunt, and will get the money to pay the school fees. So I can go back, and I can start again. 

Until then, I’ll just be here, doing house work with my aunt, like today. Some days I become sick, and others I become healthy. I go on changing. I give birth next month.

Zion prepares cassava with her aunt

 

The cause of teenage pregnancy in Uganda is poverty. You end up like this when you have some needs, and your parents don’t have money. If you ask for lunch, he or she just tells you, “I don’t have money.” And so they suggest that you struggle for yourself, and you look for money. And you get it, but it makes these problems, like getting pregnant when you are still young.

It happens at school, too. The teachers, they will tell you, “you bring the books.” So you go back, and you tell your parents, “I don’t have the books needed.” But they are just going to say, “What can I do for you? Me too, I don’t have money.” 

And you will have to search for yourself to get that book, and even the school fees. Children have to suffer for themselves. Those parents, they don’t care. We need clothes, and sanitary pads, and other things too.

If you are pregnant, you suffer. Other people abuse those of us who have gotten pregnant. They laugh at you, they say things, they spread rumours about you. But if you hear someone abusing you, you just have to control yourself and keep quiet.

My friends haven’t come to see me since I got pregnant. I don’t know why. I’ve been asking myself, but I don’t know why they don’t come.

I want my baby to be a policeman, to provide security. I want to help others; if I see him providing security to others, me too, I will become happy. And I want to become a nurse to save peoples’ lives.

I want to be faithful to my son, or if she’s a girl, providing her with what she wants, in order to reach her goals.

 

Between 2016-2019, children in seven countries in sub-Saharan Africa researched the causes and effects of teenage pregnancy in their communities. Children shared stories of rape on the way to market, abuse by schoolteachers, and large numbers of girls forced into transactional relationships due to extreme poverty and the high cost of schooling. For more, please visit the interactive report, here.

Zion*'s name has been changed to protect her identity and keep her safe.