By Hon TP Madlopha-Mthethwa
Today we are debating a very serious issue about teenage pregnancy in our society. The IFP believes that youth is the future of this country and we need to protect them and lead them and protect them to become responsible adults. We also have to help them to reach their adulthood.
Each year the high rate of teenage pregnancy is increasing. This is an indication of the fact that we are failing to stop this scourge. We must bring together all sectors of the community in this effort. Parents of adolescents, teachers, faith leaders, youth, business owners, schools administrators all have a role to play. Young people have the right to live healthy lives. Providing them with honest, age appropriate comprehensive sexual health education is a key part in helping them take personal responsibility for their health and well-being. Providing young people with the skills and tools to make healthy decisions about sex and relationships is far more effective than denying them information and simply telling them not to have sex. Young people need sex education policies that respect their autonomy and include all of the necessary information, not programs that deny important and relevant information.
Abstinence only until marriage programs do not serve the needs of young people, and often contains and perpetrates stigmatizing, shaming, and stereotyping messages. Comprehensive sexual health education programs should include medically accurate, age-appropriate information about healthy sexual growth and development; healthy relationships; prevention of unintended pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections through abstinence and contraception.
But, it is also the case that teen pregnancy is closely linked to a host of other critical social issues—poverty and income, overall child well-being, out-of-wedlock births, responsible fatherhood, health issues, education, child welfare, and other risky behaviour.
There are also substantial public costs associated with adolescent child-bearing. Consequently, teen pregnancy should be viewed not only as a reproductive health issue, but as one that encompasses all of the aforementioned. It is therefore necessary to understand the associated risk and preventative factors in order to appropriately implement prevention efforts, as these factors occur in multiple domains.
Teen pregnancy can result in a number of negative consequences such as; teen mothers are more than likely to drop out of high schools than females who delay having children, resulting in social isolation from their peer group.
With an incomplete education teenage mothers may lack necessary job skills and are more likely to live in poverty which can lead to a cycle of poverty for that child. Teen mothers are more at risk for increased exposure to domestic abuse and violence. Children born to teenage mothers are at greater risk for abuse and neglect, increased risk of developmental delay and learning disabilities, and are less likely to receive early and continuing cognitive and social stimulation, resulting in underdeveloped intellect and lower rates on academic achievement.
By preventing teen and unplanned pregnancy, we can significantly improve other serious social problems including poverty (especially child poverty), child abuse and neglect, father-absence, low birth weight, school failure, and poor preparation for the workforce.
The IFP calls for a shift from targeted interventions to a more far-reaching strategy that “builds girls’ human capital, helps them make decisions about their lives and offers them real opportunities so that motherhood is not seen as their only destiny. We further calls on government to rethink its efforts to tackle teenage pregnancy and improve their response to the specific needs of girls under 15, the most neglected and most at risk group.
When a young teenager gets pregnant it also means they are less likely to finish high school, making it harder to get a job and break the cycle of poverty that many young mothers in KZN and in other parts of the country face.
Girls in pockets of high poverty drop out of school and then get pregnant and not the other way around as is usually thought. Because of the lack of opportunities and without prospects of getting employment, becoming mothers early on is what the community expects of them.
As the IFP we believe that government can do more in reducing teenage pregnancy by ensuring that there is creation of a city-wide, teen pregnancy-related data collection, storage and retrieval system, advocating that the Health Department create a bi-annual teen pregnancy status report, advocate that the department of education measure and create a bi-annual report detailing teen pregnancy’s effect on school drop-out rates and school performance.
Another concern we have as the IFP is the issue of sugar daddies the so called blessers which we are of the view that they also contribute to teenage pregnancy. Furthermore, we are also concerned about teachers who have romantic relationship with young girls in schools.
The IFP demands that programmes like Sukuma Sakhe must play an important role in addressing teenage pregnancy in this province. We want to see MEC’s being vocal in condemning this scourge in strongest possible terms. I think it would be of importance for government to conduct a referendum on teenage pregnancy. We need to teach ourselves to give people an opportunity to speak for them and tell us what the real reasons behind teenage pregnancy are. Others believe that Child Support Grant is a major contributing factor to teenage pregnancy; others they complain about moral decay in our society.
The number of teenage girls falling pregnant will rise unless the government takes action, experts have warned. We warn government that teenage pregnancy rates will rise again unless there is sustained commitment and investment in contraceptive services, along with better sex and relationships education.
This tells us several things: firstly, there are not enough laws that address teenage pregnancy since it is really difficult to monitor it. Secondly, this social issue cannot be prevented with the help of laws since people cannot be controlled in their decisions. And thirdly, Instead of focusing on the dangers and consequences of teenage pregnancy, schools can also educate teenagers on the advantages of not having a baby when they are unprepared so that students may be able to weigh out the pros and the cons. Teenage pregnancy is a social issue that continues everywhere and not even government officials or politicians know how to control it.