Keynote address by Gauteng MEC for Health and Social Development, Ms Ntombi Mekgwe, at the launch of the teenage pregnancy awareness campaign (delivered on her behalf by Chairperson of the Gauteng Legislature’s Health and Social Development Portfolio Committee, Molebatsi Bopape)
19 Feb 2011
Clr L Sibeko, Representative of His Worship, the Executive Mayor of Ekurhuleni
Clr M Maluleke, MMC for Health and Social Development in Ekurhuleni
Clr Jafta Mngomezulu, Ward Councillor
Pastor T Zungu, Representative of Faith Based Organisations in Ekurhuleni
Senior Managers and Officials from Gauteng Department of Education
Senior Managers and Officials from Gauteng Department of Health and Social Development
Principals and Teachers present
Members of School Governing Bodies
Representatives of the Entertainment Industry and our various Partners
Learners and Young People present
Distinguished ladies and gentlemen
Every year we observe the second week of February by focusing on Reproductive Health Issues, such as; Responsible Sexual Behaviour Among Youth, Reduction of Teenage Pregnancies, Reduction of Sexually Transmitted Illnesses, and Reduction of HIV infections.
This year we have decided to tackle head on the problem of Teenage Pregnancy in our province. It is not a co-incidence that we have decided to launch this Campaign in Tembisa.
This area has the highest rate of Teenage Pregnancies when compared to other areas.
This is not going to be a once-off event. The former MEC for Health, Mr Brian Hlongwa visited the worst affected schools in this township in 2009, and spoke to learners.
We have since decided that sporadic visits by Politicians and prominent individuals are not sufficient in addressing this problem.
We have come here to say the future of the African child can no longer be postponed. We have come here to say future generations will curse us and spit on our graves if we do not address this problem head on.
We have a responsibility to our communities and the whole country to ensure that the over- all being of the girl child is nurtured and safeguarded.
The first step towards addressing any problem is first acknowledging that such a problem exists. We acknowledge that this is not just an educational problem even though it manifests itself when girl learners are visibly pregnant while still at school.
The school is the only milieu or communal hub where girls are gathered as a group continuously, hence it becomes a centre where the problem of Teenage Pregnancy is visible.
However, we acknowledge that this is also a health and social problem. Teenage pregnancy has both health and social causes. Teenage Pregnancy also has both health and social consequences.
I do not want to be misunderstood, in this matter, YOUNG GIRLS DO NOT MAKE THEMSELVES PREGNANT! Therefore, this problem needs a holistic solution.
While targeting young girls, we also need to target young boys!
We need to go further, and address causes of this problem. Peer pressure is one of the factors, the need to be hip and cool by engaging in sexual activity as a means of belonging.
Dysfunctional Family Units also contribute; hence parents cannot neglect their responsibility towards their children. Do parents know the where-about of their children (both boys and girls) even when outside of the school setting?
I want to state that it is unfair to expect teachers to work miracles when parents have neglected their responsibilities!
Therole of Alcohol and Substance Abuse can never be over emphasised. It removes inhibitions and experimentation with sexual intercourse becomes easier.
Unequal Gender Relations are still prevalent in our society. Therefore it is important that appropriate messages should be targeted to young men and boy learners as well.
When boys and older men believe that they have unfettered access to girls bodies we will continue to have a situation where girls will be seen as sexual objects.
Unequal relationships where young girls are targeted because they are poor thus depending on men who are economically well off mean that these girls cannot negotiate use of condoms, for example. In some instances this is referred to as “Transactional Sex”.
The scourge of Teenage Pregnancy ends up in our health facilities. I want to take this opportunity and state unequivocally that: BODIES OF YOUNG GIRLS ARE NOT ONLY UNPREPARED FOR PREGNANCY AND CHILD BIRTH, THEY ARE ALSO NOT PREPARED FOR SEXUAL INTERCOURSE!
There is a high risk of regular infection with Sexually Transmitted Illnesses which could lead to secondary infertility for both girls and boys. This invariably leads to unsafe backyard abortions for girls.
As young girls you become predisposed to cancer of the womb due to the fact that young girl’s wombs are not ready for sexual activity.
The most immanent risk is that of HIV Infection. Much has been said about it, and nobody in this hall can claim to be ignorant of this.
It is not my intention to regale you with statistics, but kumele sisukume sime ngezinyawo uma sanda isibalo samantombazane angaphansi kweminyaka ewu 18 ethola abantwana.
According to our records, 1 756 girls under the age of 18 gave birth at our health facilities (Esangweni clinic and Tembisa hospital) between April 2009 and December 2010. This figure does not include 203 girls under the age of 18 who had their pregnancy terminated at Tembisa hospital from April 2009 until December 2010.
Girl learners who fall pregnant do not always return to complete their education which impacts on their ability to be economically independent.
This in turn increases their dependency on the child support grant if the biological father is unable or unwilling to support them. Alternatively, they could turn to prostitution or continue with “Transactional Sex” as a means to support themselves and the baby.
In most cases the baby often grows up in a single parent family with the lack of an appropriate male role model which in turn worsens the possibility of a next generation teenage pregnancy or other social problems.
Experts in behavioural problems will tell you that such social problems tend to become generational.
Lacking parenting skills because they are still children themselves has untold consequences on the emotional development of the child which results in delinquency. and are in need of mothering themselves and thus at a huge disadvantage to bring up an often unwanted child.
There is also a risk of criminal prosecution if both biological parents and under age, including a charge of statutory rape.
As we launch this Campaign, we acknowledge that government alone will not make a difference.
All sectors of society have a role to play. We will involve other role players including Churches, students and teacher organisations, social workers, celebrities and all other well meaning sectors of society.
The role of our clinics and development centres will be very crucial in this regard. When young people visit our health facilities needing help on sexual health matters, it is not correct that health professionals should judge them!
When they are already sexually active and they seek condoms and contraceptives they should be counselled on dangers of early sexual activity without being judged.
I plead with our health workers to examine themselves and ask how they have indirectly exacerbated this problem through their attitudes. Again I wish to state that the future of our children can no longer be postponed. We owe it to future generations.
I thank you!
Issued by: Gauteng Health
19 Feb 2011
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