Mirirai Nsingo in Johannesburg, South Africa
THE Media has been urged to take an active role in disseminating appropriate information that can help African countries put an end to early pregnancies, a challenge that is derailing development on the continent.
Addressing journalists from Eastern and Southern Africa during a media capacity building workshop on ending early and unintended pregnancies in Johannesburg, South Africa on Monday, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation’s Patricia Machawira, said the media is critical for Africa to address the challenge.
“We intend to work closely with the media in addressing the challenge of early and unintended pregnancies, a problem that can reverse developmental gains. We want to ensure that young people have access to appropriate information, thus bringing timeous intervention before they fall pregnant.
“We are not advocating for young people to start having sex early but we are saying it is already happening and we cannot continue to bury our heads in the sad and pretend that it is not happening,” said Machawira who is Unesco’s HIV and Health Education Advisor for Eastern and Southern Africa.
Machawira added that in the event that girls fall pregnant, they should have a chance to go back to school and continue their education without any challenges. To protect the girl child from being disadvantaged after falling pregnant in school, Zimbabwe is amending the Education Bill to compel schools to accept pregnant pupils so that they can proceed with their education.
This has however met with mixed reactions, with some members of the public saying this will promote bad behavior while others have said the girl child should not be expelled from school after falling pregnant.
Communication for development consultant, David Wood added that the abstinence discourse has hindered most interventions while research shows that young people are having sex early.
“The abstinence discourse is becoming complicated. As much as we want young people to abstain for as long as they can, reality is that they are not. So what do we do, coming up with timeous interventions to stop early and unintended pregnancies is the way to go.”
Adding her voice on the subject, a communication consultant for the ending of Early and Unintended Pregnancies (EUP) project, Tariro Makanga concurred that working with the media was the way to go for the region to address the challenge.
“The role of the media is critical. This is becoming a global public health concern with particularly high prevalence rates in sub-Saharan Africa.”
According to a UNICEF report, the Eastern and Southern Africa region has one of the highest adolescent fertility rates in the world standing at 102 per 1 000 live births.