Are Boda Bodas Driving Up Teen Pregnancy In Tanzania?

What is the link between boda boda drivers and a rise in teen pregnancies among girls who travel long distances to school?

A Guardian article places motorbike drivers at the center of the high early pregnancy rates in Tanzania, with recent studies indicating that boda boda drivers are account for 13 % of child pregnancies in the country.

The boda boda, as motorbike taxis are commonly known, has become a commonplace fixture in Tanzania, where other means of public transport are often hard to come by. They have become increasingly popular thanks to an increasing demand for public transit and an influx of cheap motorcycle imports, and they are often driven by young men who have just finished secondary school.

According to the study, young girls, particularly those in rural areas, are vulnerable to sexual advances as they make their long treks to school. According to an article in the Financial Times, some girls live up to 15km away from their schools and so take a boda boda rather than walking the distance.

The girls are often too poor to pay the fare, and as a result, boda boda drivers prey on them. The girls end up sleeping with the drivers as payment, often leading to pregnancy and ultimately expulsion from school.

So the question is, just how many child pregnancies are motorcycle drivers responsible for in Tanzania?

PesaCheck has researched the issue, and finds the claim that boda boda riders are responsible for increasing teenage pregnancies in Tanzania to be MOSTLY TRUE for the following reasons:

The National Survey On The Drivers and Consequences of Child Marriage in Tanzania explains that poor girls are at risk given the financial circumstances they find themselves in, and the need to pay for basic services such as transport in turn exposes them to sexual exploitation.

Exact figures for the number of pregnancies caused by bodaboda drivers are hard to pin down, but what is evident is that Tanzania’s rural girls are at risk of sexual assault from transport operators across the country.

Many children experience difficulties traveling to and from school. Some transport operators refuse to take children because they pay lower fares. The journey to and from school can expose children to risk. Results from the Violence against Children survey suggest that among girls who report being sexually abused, one in four say that it happened on the way to school, whether in a public vehicle or while walking.

According to the Violence against Children in Tanzania 2011 report, about 1 in 25 females age 13 to 17 reported that they have been given money or goods in exchange for sex. The report puts the number of girls who experience sexual assault on the way to and back from school at 23%.

Therefore, the claim that bodaboda drivers are responsible for a growing number of teenage pregnancies in Tanzania is MOSTLY TRUE. There is evidence that teenage girls from poor families, particularly in rural Tanzania, are pressured to have sex in exchange for services such as transport. Bodaboda riders have taken advantage of this situation, further compounding the already dire situation that teenage girls in Tanzania are facing.

As a result, counterproductive measures such as banning teenage girls from school after they get pregnant would likely achieve the opposite effect, denying girls access to the education they would need to escape from the cycle of poverty, and putting even more of them at risk.

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This report was written by PesaCheck Fellow Belinda Japhet, a data journalist and online editor based in Tanzania. The infographics are by Benjamin Mutiso, a Kenyan graphic designer and visual artist. This report was edited by PesaCheck managing editor Eric Mugendi.

PesaCheck, co-founded by Catherine Gicheru and Justin Arenstein, is East Africa’s first fact-checking initiative. It seeks to help the public separate fact from fiction in public pronouncements about the numbers that shape our world, with a special emphasis on pronouncements about public finances that shape government’s delivery of so-called ‘Sustainable Development Goals’ or SDG public services, such as healthcare, rural development and access to water / sanitation. PesaCheck also tests the accuracy of media reportage. PesaCheck To find out more about the project, visit pesacheck.org.

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PesaCheck is a joint initiative of Code for Africa, through its local Code for Tanzania chapter, and the Data Zetu initiative to give Tanzanian citizens actionable data, in partnership with a coalition of local media organisations, with additional support from the International Center for Journalists(ICFJ).

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