Scielo recently published an article detailing the current rates of unintended teenage pregnancy and the absence of the young boys that impregnated these girls. The statistics were shocking.
30% of teenage girls in South Africa are falling pregnant. These stats look at young girls between the ages of 15-19 years.
In 2009, 50,000 teenage girls gave birth, and the number increased to 68,000 in 2013 according to the department of education. The top three provinces with the highest rates were Kwa-Zulu Natal, Limpopo, and the Eastern Cape.
So why are young girls falling pregnant?
Because they are having unprotected sex.
The question should be: Why are teenage girls engaging in unprotected sex? Are they possibly uneducated about how to navigate their sexual relationships?
The country has been running countless programs aimed at educating young girls about sex and sexuality. These programs have been running since the early 1990s. These programs went as far as implementing policies that would allow young girls to complete their education even if they are pregnant. Even the African Agenda 2030 has objectives of creating awareness campaigns around teenage pregnancy, reproductive health, and sexuality.
I remember getting educated about sex and sexuality in my youth days through a LoveLife campaign. They would go around schools teaching both young girls and boys about abstinence, the use of condoms and protecting oneself from sexually transmitted diseases and pregnancies. I also remember there being a couple of girls in my school who had fallen pregnant.
Which baffled me, because, at that age, I had zero interest in having sex, let alone without a condom.
A show played on local TV a couple of years back called 16 and Pregnant. The show followed three 16-year-old girls who were heavily pregnant and covered their stories. They had very different backgrounds, but all had one thing in common: the baby daddy was an older man.
Teenage girls are therefore involving themselves with older men who are already sexually active. They, therefore, possibly feel pressured to engage in sex with them and are maybe too scared to ask them to use a condom.
Drunkenness is also a factor when looking at teenage pregnancies. I remember the number of boys and girls caught having sex at our matric farewell. Did they intend on having unprotected sex? Were they even considering the consequences of their heated moment?
Contraception is also a readily available option for young girls, but they are also too ashamed to go to their local clinics to choose an option that would serve them. Research also indicates that some of these girls use contraceptives, but it fails to protect them. As we know, contraceptives are not always fullproof.
Public clinics have a magical way of making girls feel terrible about deciding to prevent pregnancies. I have experienced it myself. You are asked the question about your age and are reprimanded about your choice to get contraception based on your age.
“Why in the world are you having sex?”
They ask this question like it will stop you.
Michelle Solomon of Africa Check ran a study that busted the myth that rural teenage girls are falling pregnant in hopes of receiving a grant. It is also false that girls are falling pregnant because they are bored during the December holidays. A lot of articles and departments have claimed this false statement.
Another big contributing factor is the fact that parents are not talking to their children about sex and having healthy sexual relationships. This means that parents are leaving it up to the teachers to have ‘the talk’ with them. Are children engaged in schools when they are being taught about safe sex? I wasn’t. It was too embarrassing and there were too many disruptions by class clowns.
Some parents are therefore allowing pornography and other people to define what a healthy sexual relationship looks like, which is very unhealthy. Open and honest communication is very important when it comes to the subjects of sex, protection, contraception, and consent. This can’t still be a taboo discussion with our teenage daughters in 2019 when so many of them are feeling ready to have sex.
Parents find themselves wondering if they messed up in any way. Did we not raise our child right or teach them right and wrong? Regardless of how strict and involved you are, children will always make decisions that suit them.
So, we should aim, as parents, to constantly have honest communication with our children. We cannot persecute them for engaging in sex if they feel ready. They just need to know how to protect themselves when they do. They need to be confident enough to ensure that their partner safely uses a condom. And they need to know what their contraception options are.
Karabo Motsiri is a first-time mom, over-sharer, lover of life, chronic napper and married to her best friend. She loves a good party because the dance floor is her happy place. She enjoys good food, good conversations, laughs a little too hard, and cries during every episode of Grey’s Anatomy. She started her blogging journey because she wanted to share all the ups and downs of being a young modern mama in South Africa. Her blog Black Mom Chronicles has been featured on Ayana Magazine & SA Mom Blog. She has enjoyed airtime on Power FM and frequently writes for the parenting section of Saturday Citizen. She also works with MamaMagic on their Product Awards, Milestones Magazine, Heart to Heart blog, and the Baby Expo, which is South Africa’s biggest parenting expo.