The level of teenage pregnancy in the rural areas of Hakutama, Limpopo, seems to be on the rise, mainly because parents in rural areas don’t engage with their children about sexual activities and contraceptives. This becomes a huge dilemma as teenagers are forced to seek advice from their peers who, most of the time, have no idea about the effects and long term consequences of sexual activities. It ends up being a case of blind people leading each other to a hole. The sad reality is that in most municipalities, there are no stats to even document this.
One of the root causes of this communication barrier is culture and traditions in rural areas, particularly where fathers don’t engage with their children and where there’s an authority system that exists where everything is formal and children can’t speak directly [to adults].
Another big issue teenagers have continuously indicated is how, when they try to engage their parents in sex talks, parents automatically assume that the teenagers are having sex, which in most cases is not the truth.
“Nga Tshivenda vi vi thoho I laya thohe thethe, but we find in our society that parents tend to hold back on expressing and sharing their views about sex. There’s also a rise in issues where people grow up not knowing proper ways to express their sexual desires, particularly girls, who grow up with refined boundaries, so in essence this replicates from generation to generation.
This is something that erupted from the past, but the effects and boundaries it creates continues.
Teen clubs have become a platform to assist these young people because, as a literacy activist myself, I meet with these teenagers and listen to their concerns and views about sex but with an open mind.
There is also the issue that children born to teenagers have no idea as to what to do and are still trying to figure out who they are. The result is that the amount of attention given to nurture children’s capabilities and potential is very low because the parents who have these children mostly have no idea as to what their children’s needs are and, most of the time, the children grow up in settings where there’s literally no support, particularly towards their needs and their interests as individuals.
Section 28 of the Constitution outlines children’s rights, with one of the rights being that there needs to be proper care by parents, family members or someone else, or the child has to be taken away from the family.
What I want to highlight is what it means to properly take care of as a child. When a parent is still young and financially constrained, the child grows up with no exposure to so many important things that are vital to develop the child’s abilities.
This is why I find it absurd that there is even a policy under the Children’s Act that permits children who are 12-years old and above to have sex. The State/ Government actually makes it okay for them to have sex – can we realise the mindset being perpetuated here? Can we be surprised that we have such a high rate of teenage pregnancy? And we aware of the huge dependency that lies on government to continuously have to increase the amount of welfare grants to provide to these mothers and the mentality of poverty that this creates within these young parents?