On March 8th 2017, the Tanzania Parliamentary Association on Population and Development (TPAPD) made a number of commitments including;
- Holding the government and its institutions accountable for allocating, disbursing, and utilizing resources for provision of reproductive health and family planning services; as well as
- Engaging community leadership in promoting public demand, greater acceptance and use of the services so that the national contraceptive prevalence rate (CPR) target of 60% for all methods, (45% for modern methods) is attained by the year 2020.
Just three months later – on Thursday, June 22nd 2017 – TPAPD leadership and other members adopted an Action Plan to strengthen collaboration with key family planning partners such as the Advance Family Planning (AFP) project. The plan anchors on strengthening capacity in advocacy, and accountability to sustain efforts to catalyze community participation towards increased family planning uptake.
One critical issue that generated a lot of discussion was on how to monitor commodity stock levels in facilities in their respective constituencies. For some Members of Parliament (MPs) AFP’s Commodity Monitoring Tool introduced and validated last year was the option to facilitate their community work. TPAPD adopted the tool and demanded that it be used by its committed members beginning July this year.
TPAPD Chair Hon. Mary Mwanjelwa (Special Seat MP for Mbeya Region) and Secretary General, Hon Sebastian Kapufi (MP for Mpanda Urban in Katavi Region) made special appeals to parliamentarians to ensure that family planning remains at the centre of development planning, and see to it that sub-national level governments get serious with making contraceptives available everywhere all the time.
“This tool comes at the right time, as we see that maternal mortality and teenage pregnancies in the country are on the rise as a result of low coverage and use of family planning services. It will equip us with the ability to collect evidence and use it in decision making bodies in our respective constituencies” said a TPAPD member.
Rising rates of teenage pregnancy and maternal mortality have been mind-boggling issues that generated great concern given their impact on the status of girls and women, and especially on the overall movement to empower women – one of the key pillars in building a just and equitable society. About two-thirds (16) of Tanzania Mainland’s 26 regions have a teenage pregnancy rate that is above the national average of 27%, which in fact has risen from 23% in 2010.
Given the President’s directive recently on disallowing re-admission of girls who become pregnant while in school, efforts to ‘save’ this generation from poverty and deprivation as they become adult women become more complicated. This group of girls aged 15-19 comprises of a larger segment of society with more girls who are either married, divorced, or work as petty traders struggling to fend for themselves and their families after missing on education and other more decent opportunities.
Undoubtedly, at any one point, a generation of girls in this age group is lost because only a small percentage makes it to higher learning institutions including universities to enhance their knowledge and skills for presumably better paying jobs, or other opportunities for better lives.
Now as parliamentarians and other advocates take on this agenda to ‘save’ Tanzania’s girls, it is imperative to face this challenge head on: Equip girls and young women with information, knowledge, counseling on contraception, and provide contraceptives to those who are sexually active; invest in gender empowerment initiatives so that equal treatment and participation of girls and boys becomes a norm across all sectors; taking to task culprits who find comfort in preying on innocent girls.
This is called Prevention – it means taking responsibility of nurturing this future human resource, while remaining accountable to delivering on Tanzania’s Development Goal 2025 that states in part – “… to achieve a high quality of livelihood for its citizens; peace, stability, and unity; good governance; a well-educated society; and a competitive economy capable of producing sustainable growth and shared benefits”. It means girls will no longer be abandoned or condemned to figure out their own lives after pregnancy.