By Fadzai Ndangana
The government has been urged to treat teenage pregnancies as a national epidemic and to create dialogue to address the root cause of the scourge.
Addressing the parliament yesterday, Chairperson for the Parliament Committee on Health Ruth Labode said the number of teen pregnancies remains very high and the lack of action by the government will continue to cause more problems.
“If you go round all maternity homes where children are delivering, even statistics within the Ministry, there are 14, 15 and 16-year-olds. So, when we are talking of child marriages, let us not isolate it as if it is a Marange thing, it is a national epidemic and we really need to deal with it in that form.
“First of all, we must say what is causing a normal mother to want to marry out a 14-year-old, let us forget about Marange, it is poverty. People are unemployed, parents cannot pay school fees and they opt to marry them out – if they do not marry them out, they go out there and get pregnancies,” said Labode.
Recently the Minister of Women Affairs Stembiso Nyoni highlighted that over 5 000 girls, all below 16 got pregnant within a period of three months.
Labode urged the government to call for a national dialogue on and address the root cause of this epidemic.
“Go to Matabeleland South, you will see 14, 15 and 16-year-old girls who have fallen pregnant. It is a national problem so let us not cover our heads in the sand and think that we have dealt with the issue. We have not dealt with the issue, it is a reality which is going on the ground, please call for a dialogue,” she added.
Responding to Labode’s contribution, Nyoni said this calls for the whole nation not just to dialogue but to share and make sure that children are protected.
“As a Ministry, we have already started. We had a meeting in Mbire in which we had all stakeholders there. These included chiefs, teachers, the children themselves and parents. This was well received.
“I think it is good that my Ministry is saying to the girl child getting impregnated, being victimized and sexually abused is not the end of life. You can restart your life. You can rise and re-launch yourself into life. As we were dialoguing in Mbire, a young woman stood up. She had been impregnated and had been abused but she went back to school, pulled herself together and went up to form six. She got twelve points,”
Nyoni added that the epidemic cannot be stopped without collaboration.
“We need to talk to the adults to protect the girl child but you also need to strengthen the girl child and make them see that there is the possibility after the abuse.
“I think it is important that we rally together and protect the girl child, period. It cannot be the responsibility of one sector. It is a national responsibility,”