Over 100 teen mothers in South Africa gave birth on Christmas last year and New Year’s Day this year. This figure from the national health department has sounded the alarm for local healthcare authorities.
On this week’s episode of the Health For Mzansi podcast, we chat with experts, Dr Mthembeni Tebelele, Steve Letsike, and Lucy Khofi about the teen pregnancy pandemic in Mzansi.
Tebelele is a celebrity general practitioner, while Letsike and Khofi are health activists. The experts share their insights on whether poverty and a lack of sex education from an early age could be contributing factors to the country’s high teenage pregnancy rate.
Who do we blame?
According to Tebelele, the crisis of teenage pregnancy is multi-layered. He says that there are several complex reasons for the country’s high teenage pregnancy rate.
“It is a pandemic. We see teenage pregnancy headlines every week and parents are shocked. We have not accepted that our kids know more than we know,” Tebelele laments.
He further cites shocking statistics from 2021 when a 10-year-old girl was counted among the high statistics of teen pregnancy in the country.
A father of young girls, a concerned Tebelele says that it is difficult for young parents to raise children when they are inexperienced and immature themselves. “It is difficult for a kid to raise a kid,” he says.
Is sex education the answer?
Mzansi is conservative when it comes to values around sexual intercourse, Tebelele says.
“Sex has been always been taboo and the issue with sex is that people have been pretending that sex is not happening. Sex is something that is believed to happen in a dark room, it is believed to be an act that is not supposed to be seen or talked about anywhere.”
The solution is simple. Have uncomfortable conversations with children around sex.
Tebelele says, “Teenagers are going to experiment. We are caught up in denial as parents. We pretend or would like our kids not to have sex. The problem is that they experiment with little knowledge.
“We need to provide information; parents are not comfortable talking about sex with their kids.”
In this episode, experts also unpack:
- The connection between poverty and teen pregnancy.
- The high rates of HIV/Aids infections amongst young girls.
Listen to the full interview on Sisters Without Shame
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