Zim Gvt, UN Commit To Ending Early Unintended Pregnancies

THE health ambassador, First Lady Amai Auxilia Mnangagwa together with the ministries of health and education and the United Nations family in Zimbabwe have committed to ending Early and Unintended Pregnancies (EUPs).

By Michael Gwarisa

Launching  the Early Unintended Pregnancies (EUP) campaign running under the name LetsTalk Campaign, Amai Mngangagwa said Zimbabwe had progressed in crafting new policies that would address the challenges facing young girls who fall pregnant in school.

Being pregnant at school at times means facing social sanctions and difficult choices that have lifelong consequences. Is could mean expulsion from home and school, it increases stigma and bullying in school.  EUPs are often unplanned and challenging for the future of the young mother and the unborn child.

“The increased risk of both mother and baby occur during teenage pregnancy. Other negative consequences resulting from EUPs include low income, increased school dropouts rates, lower educational levels and increased rates of substance abuse,” said Amai Mnangagwa.

She added that EUPs was a national health social problem and development challenge and needed to be addressed as a matter of urgency.

Zim First Lady Amai Mnangagwa at Makomo School in Epworth at the LetsTALK Campaign launch

“Factors associated with EUPs include age, ethnicity, alcohol and substance abuse, lack of knowledge for pregnancy prevention, orphanhood, religion, peer pressure, poverty, harmful and social cultural practices such as early or forced marriages, sexual abuse and social media.

“I am delighted to note that government has formulated laws related to EUPs prevention and response. Some of these policies and laws include the Marriages Act, the School Re-entry Policy, the Non-formal education policy and the sexual offenses act.”

The school re-entry policy allows pregnant girls to return to school after delivery and efforts are already underway to codify the policy into law through the education amendment bill which is currently before parliament.

“The non-formal education policy targets adolescent mothers who are not able to go back into the formal education system. The LetsTalk Campaign is a good opportunity to raise awareness about all available policies and how the effected young people can take advantage of them.

“We need to use education as a tool for pregnancy prevention by making sure that all young people have access to help them abstain as well as delay sexual activity and this requires the Ministry of Health And Child Care (MoHCC) to provide quality adolescent and youth friendly sexual and reproductive health (SRH) services,” said Amai Mnangagwa.

Director of Ceremony Tariro Chikumbirike holding Laptop for Prof Paul Mavhima at the LetsTalk Launch

Minster of Primary and Secondary Education, Prof Paul Mavhima said the non-formal education policy and the re-entry policy will go a long way in empowering girls who would have fallen pregnant.

“The purpose of the non-formal education is to ensure that not just children but no one in Zimbabwe is left behind. It is important to emphasise that all programs aimed at promoting delayed sexual activity among children and protection of all children against sexual exploitation and abuse and most effective if these children are in school.

“Access and attendance are very important. It is also important that they begin schooling early this is why we are emphasising early childhood development and we are teaching Guidance and Counselling from as early as five years with appropriate messages,” said Prof Mavhima.

He added that the new Education Act which is about to be passed in Parliament allows for the readmission of girls who would have fallen pregnant back into the education system so that they complete system.

UNESCO Regional Director for Southern Africa (ROSA) Director and Representative, Professor Hubert Gijzen

Meanwhile, the UNESCO Regional Director  and Representative for Southern Africa (ROSA), Professor Hubert Gijzen said early unintended pregnancies affects the future of young girls in a negative way and governments should come up with laws that protect school girls in the event of an early pregnancy occurring.

“The story of early unintended pregnancies should make us think about our policies, about our interventions and about our approaches. It should compel us to have conversations and to ask ourselves if we are doing enough or making a difference in the life of the girl child.

“It is reality of early unintended pregnancies, a reality where adolescents fertility remains high amongst girls aged 15 to 19 in Zimbabwe and this is at 21% that means one out of five  girls falling pregnant in that age group,” said Prof Gijzen.

He added that 48% of these pregnancies in that age group are unplanned and 41% of girls who record the sexual debut before 18 was unwanted and unplanned.

“24% of maternal deaths are girls in that  age group 15-19. In 2018, a total of 6, 119 school girls dropped out due to pregnancy and child marriage. Pregnancy is higher in rural areas and among poor girls with low levels of education.

“Rural adolescent girls are twice as likely to fall pregnant compared to their urban peers. As a percentage, this constitutes 27% in rural areas versus 10% in urban areas. The pregnancy rate shoot up to 37% to girls who only completed primary education as compared to 17% of those who completed secondary education.”

He also said girls who fall pregnant early are often considered bad influence and outcasts in the communities and he urged government to come up with girl friendly laws and learning environments to curb stigma and discrimination. He also castigated harmful traditional practices which he said were derailing efforts of reducing EUPs.

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