MTV Shuga's documentary on teenage pregnancy, which follows the lives of three 16-year-old and pregnant high school students, has got us all talking. Because we can't deny the reality that 16-year-olds in South Africa are having sex and getting pregnant. I mean, over 15,000 pupils fell pregnant in the 2015 academic year, according to the 2015 annual school survey.
And while we can have many opinions about the documentary itself and about teenage pregnancy, as is our right, and be as disappointed, angry and critical as we want, these 14, 15, 16-year-olds will still be pregnant at the end of our opinions. What we should try not risk, is leave them feeling alone, helpless and perpetually condemned.
And we can't keep 'othering' these girls just because it didn't happen to us, or we were fortunately privy to sexual education, and or we had safety cushions to fall back on when we ourselves had unplanned pregnancies.
We also, crucially, can't ignorantly escape the socio-economic context within which this normally happens, or disassociate it from the broader conversation on sexual activity amongst our teenagers. We also can't keep on heaping blame on girls, as if they impregnate themselves.
What we can do is air our opinions while simultaneously proactively offering solutions, because this challenge won't merely go away at our condemnation. We echo Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga's call-- sexual education, sexual education, sexual education!
So, your sister, friend, daughter is 16 and pregnant and she doesn't know what to do, you yourself are not sure what to do. Here are a few places that can help:
- The Parent Centre: offers a teen parenting programme, "equipping parents and caregivers to cope with the dual role of being parents and teenagers"
- Mamkhulu.org: supports teen moms and assists them with life skills training and development so they are able to generate some income after giving birth, in the case they are unemployed.
- Lifeline Pregnancy Support: meant particularly for teenagers -- both the young mothers and fathers -- who are, or think that they may be, pregnant. It is also for the parents of teenagers who fall pregnant. Reachable on 033-342-4447
- Young mom support: offers programmes for pregnant teens, from the time they realise they are pregnant and helps them explores possible options.
We have seen over and over again, that life can and does continue after a child. It may come with some sacrifices, and perhaps regret, but it does. Let's have conversations while proactively empowering with information.