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Unlike many women who celebrate pregnancy, the 17-year-old teenager, was worried when she learnt she was pregnant.

Teenage pregnancy still high in Trashigang

Unlike many women who celebrate pregnancy, the 17-year-old teenager, was worried when she learnt she was pregnant.

For the minor, whose partner refused to accept her as a wife, the news was worrying. Her story was similar to that of her two elder sisters’, who also got pregnant when they were 17.

She said her sisters had warned her about how difficult it is to become a mother at a young age. “My situation is worse, as they had their husbands to take care of them,” she said.

She dropped out of school. She studied up to class six. She claimed she met her partner, Chimi Norbu, over the phone in June last year. She was staying with her parents, who were on the verge of divorce then.

She said her partner came to live with her when her parents were away, claiming he wanted to help her. Her parents were at the dzongkhag court fighting a legal suit. “But when he knew I conceived, he refused to come. He even refused to answer my calls.”

She gave birth to a boy last month. “He was not there when I was taken to hospital for delivery,” she said. She was 16 years old then.

Chimi Norbu, 22, said he was unaware that she suffers from a disease similar to epilepsy before they were together. “It scares me when she gets seizures,” he said. “I was never informed about the disease either by her or her parents before.”

He said he would not stay with her as long as she has the disorder. “She can take any legal action against me but I cannot stay with her. If she cannot look after the child, I can take it.”

However, the teenage mother and her elder sister Nima Zangmo claimed that Chimi Norbu knew about her illness. “He used to help me when I lost consciousness,” she said. “He is lying because he doesn’t want to take the responsibility of a father.”

She is not the only teenage mother. Trashigang dzongkhag health officials say they started an awareness and advocacy programme last year to reduce the number of teenage pregnancy cases in Trashigang.

The dzongkhag deputy chief health officer, Tshewang Dorji, said that the number of teenage pregnancy cases has been declining since the initiation of the programme.

In 2015, a total of 49 teenage pregnancy cases were registered in the dzongkhag. The number reduced to 45 last year and this year, they recorded 21 cases to date.

“The gradual decrease in the number of teenage pregnancy this year is observed after the completion of the advocacy programme,” Tshewang Dorji said.

He said that the aim of the programme is to reduce teenage pregnancy and lower the rate of maternal mortality. “Maternal mortality is directly related to teenage pregnancy. When your body is not ready to conceive, it can result in complications and untimely death.”

In 2015, there were four maternal mortality cases recorded in the dzongkhag. The number dropped to two last year.

The dzongkhag deputy chief health officer said that most teenage pregnancy cases are related to consequences of alcohol consumption and lack of parental guidance and peer pressure. “Because they are not aware, they fail to make use of emergency contraceptive pills and condoms.”

He said that teenage pregnancy is a concern and especially in the east, the numbers are quite high. “We have to address this as soon as possible.”

Although the programme covered all the 15 gewogs and higher secondary schools including the college in the dzongkhag, Tshewang Dorji said he would continue the programme starting next month in the rest of the schools and target areas.

Meanwhile, for the teenage mother, more than the pain of being left by her partner, she is worried if she would be able to register her 17-day-old son in census without a father. “I am told that I will need my husband’s details to get census for my son. I don’t know what will happen to my son.”

Younten Tshedup | Trashigang

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