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Access to contraceptives will help stem teen pregnancies

13 Nov, 2020 - 00:11 0 Views
Access to contraceptives will help stem teen pregnancies

B-Metro

Hazel Marimbiza
She is only 16, but her story does not befit someone of her age. With most of her age mates still at school, she was forced out of education after being impregnated by a 30-year-old man when she had just turned 15.

When Nompilo told her boyfriend that she was pregnant he disappeared and his relatives wanted nothing to do with her.

This was double tragedy for Nompilo as it meant she had to drop out of school and fend for her child at the backyard of her equally poor peasant parents. She, however, considers herself lucky that she did not contract any sexually transmitted disease.

Nompilo is now working as a maid for one of the villagers in Mangwe District as she desperately seeks to give her child a good livelihood.

She is, however, not alone in this. She is just one of the many disadvantaged girls in rural areas across Zimbabwe who have borne the brunt of lack of information and access to contraceptives.

Research shows that girls living in the rural areas are twice as much affected by teenage pregnancies, at a rate of 144 births per 1000 in urban girls.

Teenagers in urban areas are somehow well-informed due to their exposure to various forms of media.

This, as a result, puts the urban teenagers at an advantage as they are well informed on different types of contraceptives.

A health worker, Hilda Sibanda, from Mangwe raised more concerns on the issue.

“I personally feel there is a need for strong awareness about sexual and reproductive health rights issues from a tender age at schools.

“There are so many cases of teenage pregnancies here and it is so sad because at the end these teenagers are left with no hope of a better life,” said Sibanda.

She added that some youth start engaging in sexual activity as young as 12 years old, thus, the need for youth advocacy. “Many teenage girls give birth every year. It shows that young people are having sex, but are not using contraceptives,” she said.

Sibanda said the biggest hurdle causing teenage pregnancies was lack of a comprehensive sexual reproductive policy for young people, where schools are also ill-equipped to deal with such issues during lessons.

“Lack of education also causes early teenage pregnancies and so we need to ensure that girls stay at school. Ensuring that young people have access to condoms does not necessarily mean they should be placed at schools, but that they should be easily accessible to the youth,” she said.

Meanwhile, young people in Hwange and Binga are demanding access to Sexual Reproductive Rights Services (SRHS) such as contraceptives and HIV testing arguing they would curb early pregnancies and marriages.

Speaking during a Parliamentary Portfolio Committee for Health and Child Care public hearing in Hwange recently the youths argued that blocking access to contraceptives was fuelling teen pregnancies and school dropouts.

The adolescents said as long as restrictions on accessing SRHS continued the problem of teen pregnancies and marriages would be difficult to control.

“As we speak the reality on the ground shows us that the numbers of early pregnancies are increasing as well as abortions with children as young as 12 years.

This has given rise to unintended pregnancies, children without anyone to take responsibility as a father. We want you to allow us to get access to comprehensive SRHS which include contraceptives, HIV testing and information.

The way we are treated at the health facilities when we go seeking for services such as testing we are harassed and asked many questions. Some end up making us to seek drastic health personnel who conduct these services should be protected and allowed to do so,” said Daniel Sibanda from Young People’s Network.

According to the parliamentary committee chairperson, Dr David Parirenyatwa, parliament resolved to hold public hearings following numerous petitions from young people on the need to revise the Public Health Act to make it inclusive of teenagers to access SRHS.

The current law prohibits children under the age of 18 to access such services and as such the youths want the restrictions to be removed or lowered to 12 years.

“Parliament was petitioned by a number interest groups around the issues of access to Sexual Reproductive Rights Services by young people. It was noted by the petitioners that one in five teenagers end up falling pregnant before the age of 18 years while the national rate is at 21.5 percent.

They said unintended pregnancies is a cause for early marriage with 70 000 illegal abortions happening every year. There is a high school dropout because of the unintended pregnancies and given that 15 percent of young people make up the mortality rate. They also noted that there is a high HIV incidence among the adolescents.,” said Dr Parirenyatwa.

With most teenagers getting pregnant due to lack of information, on the use of different family planning methods like the pill, condoms, implants such as jadelle, and others, research shows that contraception prevents diseases, maternal deaths and unsafe abortion, which is illegal in Zimbabwe.

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