Michele du Plessis
It is not strange to see a pregnant teenager in her school uniform, carrying her school books on her back and the baby in her tummy. School principals, teachers and staff at high schools all over the country will be able to tell you just how many pregnant girls there are in their schools.
Teen pregnancies account for 10% of births in SA, which is about 1 million per year and account for 9.5% of maternal deaths during childbirth. Recorded births in 2017 were mothers aged between 10 and 19 years of age. And despite ongoing awareness and deterrent attempts by government and NGO’s, teenage pregnancies are still a foremost concern. About 3 million girls between 10 and 19 years old have unsafe abortions each year.
“We need to reduce early and unintended pregnancies among adolescents by 75% by 2020!” is the ambitious target set out by the Let’s Talk EUP (Early and Unintended Pregnancies) Campaign, a regional campaign underway across Eastern and Southern Africa (ESA).
“With just a few weeks before the world commemorates the International World Aids Day, this launch today couldn’t have come at an opportune moment. It also occurs at the time when we have seized with the alarmingly high levels of gender-based violence against women and girl children.
I am inclined to say that the Early and Unintended Pregnancies are poor cousins of the scourge of Gender-Based Violence against women and girl children. Whereas the HIV/Aids and the Early and Unintended Pregnancies are like a hurricane combo hell-bent on the annihilation of the flowers of the nation before they blossom. As we all know the greatest risk to contracting HIV/Aids occurs as a result of engaging in unprotected sex and at times non-consensual sex between adult males and young girls. Thus, the risk of contracting HIV amongst pregnant adolescents and women increases exponentially,” Minster Angie Motshekga, the Minister of Basic Education said at the launch of the campaign.
“As a country, we should be asking ourselves a very critical question, who makes these children pregnant? What business is this that children this age are having children, and what are we doing to prevent this injustice from happening? This Campaign, Let’s Talk Prevention of Early and Unintended is designed to nip these phenomena in the bud,” the Minister said.
The implementation of the “Let’s Talk!” campaign will target various levels of society including, individual, interpersonal, community, organizational and policy, encompassing an African solution to an African challenge. At a socio-economic level, the model is important as EUP is more than just an attitude or behavioural issue, rather it is an issue that is compounded and affected by multiple factors including, policies, cultural practices, and the health and education systems. “Let’s Talk!” campaign is driven by multiple factors that include poverty, lack of information and access to reproductive health services, cultural norms, peer pressure and sexual coercion and abuse.