South Africa – Over the past five years teenage pregnancies have increased in South Africa. The limited access to schools and clinics has helped contribute to the increase. With teenage pregnancies increasing, one charity group endeavours to educate girls and help young mothers.
In January 2023 Monique Badenhorst, Girl Gang Charity Group founder, is on a campaign to create awareness of teenage pregnancies. Badenhorst understands the problem is out of hand with younger girls, children themselves, becoming mothers everyday.
“The pregnancy awareness is going to have two parts. The one part is we going to be focused on the girls who are pregnant and have babies. We want to open up a support group for them because we want to know what happens next after the baby. Do they leave school, go back to school, have support and if the baby daddy is still there? As much as we speak of financial support, we also need physical and emotional support. The second part is going to be where we are just going to create awareness with the teenagers who don’t have babies. We are going to use the girls who have babies to educate them so that they can know what happens when you have a baby.”
Creating awareness about teenage pregnancies
Oftentimes young people refrain from going to clinics because they feel they are being judged. Whether they go or not, they will still be judged, said Badenhorst. There needs to be a judgemental free zone for teenagers to get the help they need. Awareness needs to be created at home, communities and schools.
“Our clinics should be made open. We shouldn’t have the judgemental mentality. Our clinics should be welcoming these girls. They should not feel unwelcome going to a clinic as a teen mom or going for prevention. They get questions like what are they doing here because they are only 16. Our teenagers will walk away, they won’t sit there. Then they go and do what they need to do. Awareness for me starts from us. It starts from within the community. From ourselves, from parents, from. The community. We all need to create awareness to educate the children. We need to start talking about this in primary schools.”
There is a disagreement regarding raising awareness at a young. Teenagers might get the idea it is fine to have sex as long as it is safe. Badenhorst understands this is a risk but it is better to educate them on safe sex than not to educate and create awareness about the issue.
“It might happen. They might think it’s okay to do it as long as it is in a safe manner. It might happen but we more focused on the need to know what will happen if you have sex. We don’t want them to have sex. We have different generations. They know everything and they want to experiment with everything. We also need to speak to our boys. Educating a girl isn’t going to help because it takes two to have sex. We need to get in a group of guys to educate our boys.”
The role of the community
The community can play a vital role in educating girls and also helping young mothers. Educating girls on safe sex and teenage pregnancies is necessary as it shows support them and helps them understand they still have a future, said Badenhorst.
“All home situations are different. You could have support, I could not have support and that has a factor in terms of whether you should keep this baby. Some decide they don’t want the baby because the boy is no longer there. There’s a lot of factors around what happens to the baby … We need to step in as a community, as schools, as parents, as NPOs and even the government needs to come on board. Education is the first thing. We can give them the tools to educate them. We cannot force them.
Parents can help their kids by looking after their baby while they are at school but this must come with boundaries also. Badenhorst stressed parents should not take full responsibility as this will not teach their child a lesson and will lead to further problems.
“We also want to invite parents to please help the children to look after the children while they are at school and that has also been misinterpreted. We find that they have babies and then mommy is there looking after the baby while they go out and party. That creates room for another baby where they are not being taught a lesson. We are saying support but not to support you in terms of letting the child now get away with it. The child still needs to be a mother at the end of the day. They still need to take responsibility at the end of the day.”
The teenage pregnancy events
The first event being hosted by Badenhorst is open to pregnant teenagers and teenagers who have babies. The aim is to create a support group for these girls and show them their life is not over even if they are about to become mothers. There is light at the end of the tunnel.
“We want to start a support group so that we can encourage them that this is not the end. The ones that have babies will speak to the ones that are still pregnant so the ones that are pregnant will know what lies ahead and to know that you’re not alone. We’re going to be there as support and we’re going to have fun … We want to give them some nappies, Purity, formula and baby wipes. That is for the babies.”
The second event is catered towards teenage girls who aren’t mothers or pregnant. This event is all about educating them and making them understand how it is being a teenage mother. Badenhorst will bring teenage mothers to meet these girls and talk to them.
Badenhorst has urged communities to spread the message and send these girls for her event. She also wants the communities to assist her with providing these girls with essentials for the babies. The event is all about educating young girls and helping young mothers. With teenage pregnancies on the rise, Badenhorst hopes these events will be beneficial to young mothers and teenagers.