Analysis: MUMBA MWANSA
DURING my recent visit to Eastern Province, I was astonished at how rampant cases of teenage pregnancies are in rural areas.This left me thinking of how we, as individuals as well as a country, can work tirelessly at ensuring this vice is completely eliminated.
At Chipata Central Hospital’s mothers’ shelter, it was disheartening to see expectant mothers as young as 13 years old. One wonders whether these girls were raped or sexually abused.
But no, I came to learn that mostly, the girls engage in sexual activities because of poverty, which leaves them vulnerable to the men folk, who come to their aid by providing basic needs.
According to the mothers’ shelter sister-in-charge, Bernadette Banda, between January and June this year, the hospital had a record of four expectant mothers aged 13, four girls aged 14, 71 were aged 16 and, 17-year-old expectant mothers were 117.
Having such figures of teen pregnancies really left me in awe. Where is our society going wrong in inculcating morals in the young girls? Girls as young as 13 years ought not to think of engaging in sexual activities unless one is sexually abused or raped, which I shall equally condemn in the strongest terms.
Being a mother and having had the experience of normal child delivery, I wonder how much pain the young girls go through, especially that their bodies are still developing and are not ready to carry a pregnancy.
I totally agreed with First Lady Esther Lungu when she took it personal as she lectured and mentored the young girls in Chief Madzimawe’s area on the dangers of teenage pregnancies.
Mrs Lungu called on the girls to completely stay away from sex and report any person who tries to engage them or their friends in sexual activities as sex could most definitely lead to pregnancies and even lead to death.
“Please refrain from early marriages until when you are educated and your body is able to handle the pain that a woman goes through when they are in labour. There is too much pain in labour, and this should actually scare you,” she said.
We, as individuals and as a country, have a huge task of eliminating teenage pregnancies to zero percent. We need to take it upon ourselves to educate the young girls on the dangers of engaging in sexual activities at a tender age.
Men equally need to be more co-operative and fight their temptations of luring young girls into sexual activities. There is need for them to begin to look at an underage girl more as a sister or daughter than as a potential wife or sex object.
To the young girls who have already fallen prey to teenage pregnancy, my advice would be that they should never give up on their educational journey. Yes, they have careered off the educational path, but this should be treated as a hiccup and lesson that needs not to be repeated.
Thanks to Government, we have a re-entry policy which allows young mothers who fall pregnant whilst in school to go back to pursue their education once they have delivered and the baby is strong enough to be looked after by elderly people. This, however, does not encourage schoolgirls to engage in sexual activities.
Echoing the First Lady’s advice to those teenage girls who fail to resist the temptation of staying away from sex, the best way (which I am not encouraging, but can be treated as a last resort) would be for the girls to seek family planning education from health care providers at any health facility.
I cannot end this piece without commending Chief Madzimawe of Kasenengwa district for his strong stance on ending teenage pregnancies and early marriages.
The chief, through his brainchild, the Chiefdom GBV Secretariat, aims at educating the community on the dangers of these vices and how they can be completely eliminated in the area.
The secretariat offers psychosocial counselling to victims of the different forms of gender-based violence. It also provides support to young mothers by re-enrolling them into school as well as meeting all their school and home basic needs.
“From January 1 to June 29 this year, the chiefdom recorded 224 cases of gender-based violence. Of these cases, 66 were classified as emotional violence, 50 were child marriages, 44 were economic violence, 37 were physical violence, while 13 cases are of family negligence,” Chief Madzimawe said.
Therefore, let’s all champion having a society that will have zero tolerance to teenage pregnancies.
The author is a Zambia Daily Mail sub-editor.
Analysis: MUMBA MWANSA