Thursday, August 01, 2013

Alarming pregnancy rate among our adolescents
By Editor
Wed 17 July 2013, 14:00 CAT

THE United Nations system in Zambia says pregnancy among Zambian adolescents is over 30 per cent of 15 - 19-year-old girls. It also reveals that 42 per cent of Zambian women were married before the age of 18. This is an alarming rate of pregnancy among our adolescents. And Zambia's Millennium Development Goal report indicates that early marriage and adolescent pregnancy are the two main triggers for the country's high maternal mortality rate.

Statistics show that 38 of our country's mothers die every month due to complications related to pregnancy and childbirth. We are told that unsafe abortions, obstetric fistula, haemorrhage and malnutrition often result in our country's young mothers facing a heightened risk of maternal complications, death and disability. And their children, even when surviving birth, face higher risks as well.

Young girls who become pregnant stop attending school. And most of them don't go back to school after giving birth. And their childhood ends abruptly. Once they become mothers, even if they are 15, 16 or 17, they cease to be children; they become adults. Even their names change to bana so and so. By the time they are 30, they are also grandmothers and become banakulu so and so. Before they reach 50, they are great grandmothers. What does this entail in terms of human development and fulfillment; in terms of health and literacy?

A child is a child and cannot fulfil the role of a parent well. Everything has got a time. A child needs to go to school and play; a child needs to learn many things about life without being responsible for so many things. If this is disrupted, the development of that child is also disrupted. Early pregnancies disrupt this progression from childhood to adulthood. Firstly, a child who becomes pregnant doesn't have the capacity to support herself financially and otherwise. And usually these are children whose parents were also struggling to support them.

This means they are now left on their own to support themselves and the babies they brought into this world. How can this work? It can't work, it's simply a question of hell breaking loose. All sorts of vices creep in. Some are forced into early marriages to their fellow young boys who also have nothing to support themselves and their new families with. A child getting married to another child! Is sum of the two expected to produce an adult?

There is no simple solution to this complex problem. But this doesn't mean effective measures cannot be put in place to try and address it. Ways can be found by trying to keep girls safe and in school, enforcing laws that deter early marriage and harshly punish defilement. We can also not run away from sex education and allowing our young people to know what they need to know to avoid early pregnancies. We need to actively promote birth control and reproductive health education. And this has to be done at every level from the family, the church, the school, the traditional and state authorities. All need to be involved. This is not a matter that can be addressed by the parents alone. All our institutions need to be involved.

Our traditional rulers have a big role to play by not condoning early marriages and they themselves marrying young girls. The Church has great moral persuasion and should do more. But in most cases the Church is uncomfortable talking about sex matters. Yet, so often the Church is losing girls from its choirs because of early pregnancies.

Great awareness is needed because it delays child-bearing among our young people and it also reduces or stops early marriages.

We have young girls who leave school to go and get married. And their parents allow them to do so. They even collect lobola! This must stop. Here, reproductive health education should not be limited to the young people themselves. It needs to be extended to their parents and grandparents as well. The leadership of our churches needs to be educated or sensitised on these matters. The traditional authorities need to be made aware of the dangers of these early marriages and early childbirth and encouraged to stop them.

Allowing children to have children is endangering the future of our country. If such a high percentage of our children are being born from mothers who have no capacity to be mothers, it will be very difficult for those children to grow up properly and become good citizens. Firstly, they will be hammered by malnutrition, which may affect not only the health of their bodies but also their mental and intellectual development. We can end up with a population dominated by imbeciles.

The advancement of our country will not go far unless we start to pay special attention to the plight of our girls. If we really value the future of our country, we have no alternative but to start to pay special attention to the plight of our girls by starting to afford the highest priority to providing them with the necessary reproductive health education. "Train children in the right ways" (Proverbs 22:6).

The life and health of our girls are of central importance to the future development of our nation. We should therefore increase our efforts to educate them to have a more correct view of themselves and their lives. And every effort should be made to actively redress the injustices being done to them in the family and in the nation at large. It is a strict duty of justice and truth not to allow the fundamental needs of our girls to remain unsatisfied. There is no future development without healthy and educated girls.

A loving and compassionate response to the challenges and problems our girls are facing is called for. Our young people, especially our girls, have the capacity to enjoy life and its freedom but they need guidance on how best to do this. Education of our girls is a critical challenge facing our nation today. Our girls have the right to make sound moral judgments based on well-formed conscience



Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home