It is estimated that 10.2 million unintended pregnancies per year occurred in Eastern and Southern Africa alone. Many of these pregnancies happen to young girls and adolescents whose lives are changed forever. This is an experience I can relate to.
One day I was on “the right track” – a top-tier student on my way to a top-tier university and the next day I was pregnant, classified as a moral hazard, removed from my school and reassigned to a special campus for “those girls”.
The problem of early pregnancy is a complicated one and requires us to examine our individual and collective histories, cultures, traumas and the moral compass that guides how we help young people avoid becoming pregnant before they are prepared as well as how we treat young women who do become pregnant. When we neglect to have the conversations that equip young people to make informed choices about their own sexual health and their sexual and reproductive futures we forfeit the promise of tomorrow.
I was fortunate to have the support of my family, and a few pivotal educators. My story has a happy ending.
But, there are millions of young girls and adolescents who do not have the same familial or social supports that protected me and my child from the worst outcomes of early pregnancy. For so many young girls and adolescents, an early pregnancy means suffering stigma and isolation, loss of access to education, and a future of poverty and its related ills.
I feel for those girls. I have shared some of their fears. I have suffered some of the same stigmas. We need to lift these girls up.
As elders, we have a responsibility to pass down the knowledge about life to the generations that follow and that includes knowledge about reproductive power. As humans, we have the choice to create and this is not something that we should shy away from talking about. The power to create life is a beautiful gift and it is something to be cared for, nurtured and acted upon in a manner that each person consciously chooses.
The path to a healthier and more sustainable future is not possible without talking with our children about their sexuality, their hopes, their fears, their futures and the very best versions of themselves that they can become. It’s time to set aside the taboo, the embarrassment, and the shame. Let’s talk about it.
Let’s Talk EUP campaign – Zambia launch.