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Pretoria – Opinions remain divided on the proposal to extend social grants to pregnant women. One school of thought argues that it is the right thing to do while another says it will encourage pregnancies.

The proposal to assist students aged 18 years and above if they fell pregnant while studying was made by Professor Alex van den Heever, chairperson of social security systems administration and management studies at Wits University.

He had conducted research on income protection for pregnant women. Sweden, for example, had structures in place to support pregnant students so they could finish their studies.

Van den Heever believed a similar system would work well in South Africa.

“It’s necessary to protect pregnant women’s access to employment and offer them generalised income support,” he said. “Students who are pregnant are not supported in education easily.”

Van den Heever said increasing the age at which grants were given would stabilise the economy since it would allow pregnant students to complete their studies.

The idea appealed to six-month pregnant Shela Lebelo of Soshanguve, who said she was in favour of the grant and would recommend at least R1000 a month. She believed it should be extended to benefit all pregnant women.

“It’s hard being pregnant and unemployed. Pregnant women have lots of needs such as comfortable clothes,” the unemployed woman, who is expecting her second child, said.

“The bigger the belly gets, the more the need for new clothes. I also have cravings which need to be fed now and again, so the money would be very helpful."

“With this pregnancy, I usually crave sweet things like chocolate, yoghurt and sweets, but I cannot afford them. I sometimes eat hard clay to feed the cravings,” she said.

But Precious Seleka of Pretoria Central said the grant would be a recipe for disaster.

Seleka said women needed to work for themselves and not expect free money all the time.

“People need to take responsibility for their actions. We all know that if you have unprotected sex, there’s a chance of having a baby. Therefore, it doesn’t make sense that someone must pay for your bad decision,” she said.

The 27-year-old said she was expecting her first child and was excited about it.

“There’s joy being able to feed your cravings. Before you decide to fall pregnant you need to think whether you have money to feed your cravings, money for transport to check-ups, clothes and stretch-mark creams. If not, then women should wait until they are ready to care for their pregnancy.”

Anna Mokoena, 18, said birth control methods would not be used if a pregnancy grant was introduced.

“Already people are getting pregnant so they can get children’s grants; imagine what would happen if there was a pregnancy grant? Everyone would fall pregnant.”

But Ikamva Labana children’s home in Pretoria dismissed claims that women would fall pregnant for money, citing the numerous cases of child abandonment and illegal abortions.

The centre’s social worker Lereko SindaneIt said all methods to cut incidents of difficult pregnancies had to be made.

“The selection process would have to be stringent and only women who found themselves in that tough situation despite their own efforts to survive must be considered.”

Like other social grants, the pregnancy grant would alleviate poverty and death, and prevent low birth weight, she said.

It could assist with transport costs and medical treatment, among others.

The pregnancy grant would add to existing social grants like child support (R360), pension for people under 75 (R1510), pension for people over 75 (R1530), war veteran (R1530), care dependency (R1 510) and foster care (R890).

In Bolivia a pregnancy grant is known as the baby bonus. At least 50 Bolivianos (R96) is paid to a woman for each medical appointment she attends at public health services during her pregnancy.

They receive 125 Bolivianos for each bimonthly medical appointment attended by the child until the age of two.

Pretoria News