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'Holistic approach' needed to tackle teenage pregnancy

Statistics by the National Department of Health showed that in the last four years, 14 176 girls aged between 10 and 14 fell pregnant. Picture: Lebohang Mashiloane

Statistics by the National Department of Health showed that in the last four years, 14 176 girls aged between 10 and 14 fell pregnant. Picture: Lebohang Mashiloane

Published Dec 29, 2021

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Cape Town - Organisations have called for the adoption of a holistic approach to tackle teenage pregnancy, following a policy decision by the Department of Basic Education (DBE) that puts the onus on schools to report teenage pregnancy.

The policy provides guidelines on the management of the incidence of pregnancy among learners.

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The Western Cape Department of Health has been unable to provide detailed information on the rate of teenage pregnancy in the province.

However, spokesperson Byron la Hoe said: “Based on our records for the period April 2020-March 2021, the overall prevalence of adolescent pregnancy under the age of 19 years in the province was 11.4%. This included births at our health-care facilities.”

In a report by Statistics SA for 2020, a total of 33 899 births were to mothers aged 17 and younger while over 600 children aged between 10 and 13 gave birth; of these, 499 gave birth in 2020.

Statistics by the National Department of Health showed that in the last four years, 14 176 girls aged between 10 and 14 fell pregnant.

Love Life has welcomed the policy by the DBE. CEO Dr Linda NcubeNkomo said: “The new policy places a huge responsibility on schools as they will now have to be in communication with SAPS when a learner under the age of 16 falls pregnant. That is statutory rape, it’s a serious crime that should be reported.”

Organisations which aim to reduce the prevalence of teenage pregnancy said it occurred due to a number of factors.

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Julie Mentor, Embrace Movement leader, said: “There are many drivers of teenage pregnancy including genderbased violence, intergenerational transactional sexual relationships, early sexual debut and a lack of access to reliable sexual and reproductive health information and health services.

“Teenage pregnancy is another symptom of a society that is deeply unaware of the particular vulnerabilities that adolescent girls and young women face.

“We need to acknowledge that we live in a society that deeply stigmatises adolescent girls who fall pregnant and treats them as perpetrators of their situation, which in many cases, we know that this could not be further from the truth.”

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Phineas Muchenjekwa, technical adviser at mothers2mothers, said: “Unintended pregnancy among adolescents requires holistic approaches that build girls’ empowerment, help them make decisions about their lives, including around sexual and reproductive health, engage the support of men and boys in their lives, and offer them real opportunities so that motherhood is not seen as their only destiny.”

The provincial health department is running health-system interventions and education campaigns such as #PlanAheadWC to address socio-cultural beliefs and misinformation that undermine the use of contraceptives.

The Western Cape Department of Social Development also has family support programmes available to teenage mothers.

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