KIGALI, RWANDA – Benitha Nyiranizeyimana, 14, got pregnant when she was in fifth grade in Kigali, Rwanda’s capital. She says she eventually dropped out of school because her mother couldn’t afford to pay her education fees on top of supporting her and her new baby.
Benitha's boyfriend, the baby’s father, sometimes brings milk and money to help support their baby. The young mom says the baby is healthy, and she loves him very much.
For every 1,000 girls ages 15 to 19 in Rwanda, there are more than 40 births, according to UNICEF. Teenage pregnancy, gender-based violence and early marriage account for the majority of school dropouts here. The dropout rate is 11.4 percent in primary school and 7.5 percent in high school, according to Rwanda’s Ministry of Education.
In general, women don’t start to use contraception until they have had at least one child, according to the preliminary results of the 2010 Rwanda Demographic and Health Survey. The use of contraception increases with education level, but many girls drop out of school once they become pregnant.
Josiane Mukanyandwi, 17, got pregnant for the first time at age 14 after she was raped. The baby died, and the man who raped her is in prison.
She got pregnant again after having a consensual relationship with her former employer, but he was a married man. She used to work as a domestic helper in his family’s home, but they kicked her out once she became pregnant. The baby’s father does not provide any financial support.
A family that Josiane did not know took her and her baby in. She dropped out of school and now does household chores for the family in exchange for room and board. She says she also spends this time reflecting on her life.
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