Monday, May 6, 2013

If It's Not One thing, It's Another!

Lola is a 16 y/o girl growing up in the suburbs of a sprawling district in Nairobi, Kenya. She is intelligent, cute and charming. Everyone loves Lola in school and her teachers think she's got a very bright future. Lola comes from a religious family. Her mum is the prayer warrior of the Pentecostal church in the neighborhood. She doesn't talk to her children about sex and its consequences. Lola's dad is an academic. He works as a university lecturer in the city. He's strict yet loving and wants the best for his children. After closing at school one day, Lola hooks up with friends as they find their way home. Being all girls, they discuss about getting boyfriends. "I think I'm old enough to have a guy" says Simbi. "I can't wait to become an adult at last" says another, as the other girls chuckled. They all look at Miriam, the oldest in the group. Rumor has it Miriam has bedded a few guys and could say one or two things about it. "My parents will be traveling to the village next week. We can invite a few guys over" Miriam discloses. Lola listens with rapt attention in the middle of all this. She's trying to figure out how to respond to Miriam's invitation. The troubled teenager is torn between giving in to the yearnings of her raging hormones and making her family proud by keeping her virginity until she gets married. In the end, Lola decides to honor Miriam's invitation. She goes to Miriam's house and meets Jaiye. Now Jaiye, who is as handsome as the devil, has the charm of a red-nosed reindeer and a smooth talking tongue. Behind all these, Jaiye also has the morals of an alley cat. Within minutes, Jaiye is able to break down Lola's final resistance. "Why can't we have some fun? The other guys already got to it. It's harmless" he persuades. Lola falls for him and gives in. A few weeks later, Lola is pregnant. She's devastated. How would she explain this to her parents. She has failed her family. She talks to Simbi and together they go after Jaiye. He suggests an abortion. He's not ready to father a child and Lola isn't ready to be a mother at 16. They find a quack who's ready to do it for a few bucks. Lola goes under the quack's knives and gets rid of the pregnancy. A few days later, complications arise and Lola starts bleeding. She refuses to confess on her deathbed, but as the embers of life start to slowly diminish, she confesses to her mom and mentions Simbi and Jaiye. Soon after that Lola dies!

Amanda is 16 years old. She lives in Alabama, U.S.A. She's a happy-go-lucky kind of girl. Her dad is a busy management consultant who's seldom around the family. Amanda's mum is a nurse who spends most of her time saving lives at the general hospital. Without getting enough quality time to spend with both parents, Amanda falls back on friends. She enjoys all the gossips and exuberance of a bubbling teenager with her friends. Now in senior high school, Amanda wants to try out new things. She finds a willing partner in Amy who shows up with the cigarettes and booze. In the course of this, she gets intimate with a few older guys she meets through Amy. Week-in-week-out, Amanda goes home tipsy but her parents are too busy to notice. Gradually, Amanda slowly ebbs deeper into the world of alcoholism. Her grades begin to drop at school and her teachers start worrying about her. She sees the school counselor who convinces her to retrace her steps. She did. Few weeks later, Amanda meets Amy who invites her to a party being hosted by Jimmy, the most sought-after kid in school. Amanda can't resist. She goes to Jimmy's party and ends up dancing with Jimmy. Now, Jimmy is a spoilt rich kid, and good-looking, too. His dad wants him to go to Harvard and be a successful business-man. Jimmy cajoles Amanda to follow him into the room. Amanda is half-way in the bag and can't resist. A couple of weeks later, Amanda realizes she's been knocked up. She finds Jimmy in school and tells him he's about to be a father. This doesn't go down well with him. That'd be a scandal if his parents get to know about it. It'd ruin their standing in the prestigious yacht club of millionaires. Amanda is crushed. She goes home and cries all day. She's going to have the baby  regardless of what happens. Her mom comes home from work late in the night and finds Amanda waiting up for her. She can't believe it when Amanda breaks the news of her pregnancy. She realizes she hasn't been living up to her billings as a mother. She promises to change. Nine months later, Amanda has a bouncing baby girl and names her Jaimee to remind her of Jimmy. Even though she has a child out of wedlock, she's hopeful and alive!

Being a teenager could be as challenging as riveting. Across the world, from Africa to America to Asia and to Europe, teens face the daunting tasks of sticking to the rules and charting a course for their lives. Unsurprisingly though, the challenges teens have to face differ from one continent to another. African teens are wary of getting pregnant thus putting an end to their education and bringing the family name to shame. A knocked-up African teen is regarded as a failure in most African societies. Most times, they result to having an abortion thereby falling prey to the numerous quack doctors. Which brings up another question. Would it help if abortion were legalized? While getting knocked up in your teens is definitely not something to be proud of, the toga of shame and guilt these teens are made to wear doesn't in any way help them to recover from the trauma of becoming a young mother.

The onus falls on parents and guardians, being the closest to their wards. They should feel free to discuss the consequences of sex with their teens and make them grasp the full picture, and when it goes the other way, help them get back on track. Having a baby as a teen doesn't necessarily spell failure for the mother, what happens after does.


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