Health demographic survey singles out teen pregnancies

MUMBA Mwansa.

THE 2018 Zambia Demographic and Health Survey preliminary findings released to the public indicated that teenage pregnancies are still on the rise despite the many interventions being put in place.
According to the report, 29 percent of women aged between 15 and 19 have already begun childbearing with 24 percent having had a live birth, and five percent having been pregnant with their first child.
The report further states that six percent of women have already begun childbearing at the age of 15 but the proportion of having children increases rapidly with age, reaching 53 percent among women aged 19.
This is indeed worrying.
What should we do to bring down these figures? What new approaches should be deployed, especially in this era of modernity?
This task should first and foremost begin with parents and guardians.
We are in a modern era where sexual education should not be a taboo. Children need to be educated on the dos and don’ts, as well as the dangers and consequences of engaging in sex at a tender age.
On the other hand, teenagers also need to stop being in a ‘hurry’ and avoid succumbing to peer pressure. The young people should not disregard or disrespect advice given to them by their parents or guardians as it is for their own good.
Teachers, clergymen and women, and dependents who stay long hours with the children, too, have a huge role to play in this fight as they are their role models.
Let us all work together to fight this vice.
In the report, teenage women aged between 15 and 19 from rural areas have been cited to be leading in early child bearing, at 30 percent as compared to those from urban areas, who recorded 19 percent.
This is also visibly evident especially in the rural areas I have visited, where girls as young as 12 to 14 years already having babies.
However, one fact I have learnt from the different rural areas visited, after having chats with the actual teenagers who are either pregnant or have friends or relatives who are pregnant, is that there is lack of recreational services and the anxiety to experiment what they watch on phones.
In rural areas, girls who drop out of school early and become pregnant earn more respect from the community than those who persevere in school. This should be the opposite, actually.
Alangizi, too, should reform the way they train girls who reach puberty. Currently, the education is tilted towards how to handle men in bed. As a result, girls graduate ‘hot’ and itching to practise what they were taught.
It is worth noting, however, that most of the teenagers are remorseful after they have experienced the burden that child bearing comes with. If they could reverse the clock, they would do so. The onus is therefore on the adults to help the young not to make decisions that are regrettable.
The 2018 Demographic and Health Survey report also states that Southern Province has recorded the highest cases of teenage pregnancies at 43 percent followed by Western Province at 41 percent, Eastern at 40 percent, with Lusaka being the least at 15 percent.
In the report, it has been proved that teenage girls aged 15-19, who have had no education (42 percent) or have gone up to primary school level (36 percent), are more likely to engage in early childbearing as opposed to those who have attained secondary education (23 percent) – the reason why Government, through the ministries of Education, and Chiefs and Traditional Affairs, should re-engage traditional leaders to vigorously campaign on the need for parents and guardians to ensure that all children are accorded an opportunity to go to school.
Government and many other stakeholders have committed to help reduce the numbers of teenage pregnancies in the country, and more still needs to be done if we are to attain this target.
The role of parents and guardians in the upbringing of children is very key, just as the Bible states. Therefore, they should make sexual education part of the conversations in the home so that children are more knowledgeable and should be able to make informed decisions when faced with such a predicament.
To all young people, the cliché to stay away from sex is not a hindrance to their human rights, as some say, but a guide to their good future. When elderly people advise, it is because they have been there or have seen, and they would not like them to go through that path. Abstinence is the way to go, but if they cannot resist, they should use protection.
Let us all come together and overcome this vice, which is detrimental to not only an individual’s future but also the development of the country. It perpetuates poverty.
Let us help reduce on teenage pregnancies in Zambia.
The author is a Zambia Daily Mail sub-editor.

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