#HappyFlowMonday: What are the key drivers of early & unwanted pregnancies in your community and how are you actively addressing them?


This week our question to Network Members is:

What are the key drivers of early & unwanted pregnancies in your community and how are you actively addressing them?

Erick Muzyamba - Zambia

Lack of youth platforms and safe spaces are the major cause of early pregnancies in my community - especially the rural areas. Youths have no spaces to share information and learn from each other, this is compounded by travelling long distances to schools.

For places that have youth corners, there is no peer to peer sensitization as such youths shun these places.

Our cultural norms are considerable drivers of early pregnancies, for example we here to say wisdom comes from the elders. This has negatively affected the younger generation as they don’t have age appropriate messages.

In addressing these challenges, I am working with Adolescent Girls and Young Women aged 10-24 years [AGYW] as a priority population group to strengthen their environment to live lives free of GBV and enjoy healthy-supportive, gender-equitable relationships. This is done by sharing messages through dialogues, conversations, focus group discussions and theatre performances. These are further engaged in Girls Leading Our World [GLOW] camps where they share peer to peer discussions on ending GBV and HIV and learn life skills such as making reusable sanitary pads. Then we refer them to DREAMS for survival skills and go through a 13 session stepping stones curriculum. At this level, they are taught about menstrual health and hygiene and undergo vocational skills training for the 20-24 years.

Sophia Takuva - Zimbabwe

In the mining towns women and girls are at high risk of sexually transmitted infections, and early and unwanted pregnancy. Due to differing types of settlements in the country, health care and services are not easily accessible. This leads to early and unwanted pregnancy in my community, caused by unprotected sex, non-use of contraceptive methods, miscalculation in family planning techniques and sometimes rape, alcohol and drug abuse, poverty and unempowered girl children being unable to negotiate for condom use. As a Women's Rights activist with the help of other organisations we address these challenges by supporting and educating women and girls about their Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights. We talk to girls about puberty and menstruation - that it is a natural process that comes as a result of a woman's natural maternal functions. Things are changing with the help of programs like 'Donate a pad and take a girl to school', but there is still need for more awareness and educational campaigns on SRHR and to include men in SRHR education to support women and girls. Also to break through cultural beliefs and negative perceptions that still see women as people who can't make their own sexual health decisions.

Scovia Aseru - Uganda

I live in the urban slum of Kisaasi,  Kampala city in Uganda. Generally in the country, teenage pregnancy is at 25% in girls between 15-19. In Kisaasi young girls indulge in risky behaviors like going to night clubs, drinking alcohol and smoking shisha - at that point men take advantage to lure them in to sex by giving them lots of money and because of poor judgement caused by drugs and alcohol they end up having unplanned unprotected sex resulting to pregnancy.  Negligence of parents giving unreasonable freedom in the name of children's rights allowing them move in the wee hours of the nights alone or with peers, young girls dating older men who offer bigger sums of money in order to have sex with them without condoms because older men believe young girls have no HIV. Some parents are poor and economically disempowered and are willing to exchange their girls in order to get money if a man is willing to take them as a wife at a young age.

Through a community-based organization I started we are building a generation of young women informed, self assured and trained to understand their menstrual cycle and ovulation period. A girl is able to be aware of the changes and signals that ovulation has occurred in her body and thus can track her fertility and know not to have unprotected sex in the fertile days of her periods. We Sensitize them to stay in school,  keep away from alcoholism whilst giving knowledge on condom use and other forms of contraceptive use. We are involving Boys and Men in sensitizing them about dangers of early pregnancies because they play a key role in this issue.

Dalitso Chiwayula - Malawi

The main Key Drivers of early and unwanted pregnancies in my community (Thyolo district, Southern part of Malawi) are Poverty and negative cultural practices.

Poverty is the greatest key driver, as most rural girls prefer engaging in premarital sex in search for money to use for their daily basic needs since their parents/guardians cannot afford to take care of these needs which include buying sanitary pads. In the process, most rural girls get early and unwanted pregnancies. With HIV prevalence in my community, there is high rate of orphanhood which leaves a lot of girls helpless without anyone to rely upon. This leads to school drop outs and early marriages as most rural and helpless girls think that they will get a little help by getting married. While others prefer early marriages, most of them find themselves in the situation due to unplanned and early pregnancies which give them no choice but to get married.

On Negative cultural practices, our tradition and customs prepare a girl on how she can keep a family not as a breadwinner but a goal keeper. In most times, rural girls are being taught on how they can handle a man in bed. In principle, this exposes a girl to early sexual activities which in turn lead to early and unwanted pregnancies.

All these have something to do with Menstruation again, whereby the girls are being taught to treat menstruation as a total secret. However, with high levels of poverty, most rural girls cannot afford to have clean sanitary pads, (or reusable sanitary pads) for general health and cleanliness. They usually utilize readily available pieces of worn out clothes which sometimes are not user friendly. This is because they are unable to purchase the good sanitary pads and there is inadequate knowledge and skills for most rural girls in my community to produce their own reusable sanitary pads.

To reduce early and unwanted pregnancies in my community, I am leading my organization (Chipembere Community Development Organization) in the advocacy project aimed at establishment of inclusive implementation plan for Thyolo bylaws related to adolescent girls. In this project (funded by Rise Up International), we are engaging the gatekeepers (community leaders) who are the custodians of the community, to deliberate on the bylaws and its implementation plan in order to reduce both early/ unwanted pregnancies and Early/child marriages. My organization is also engaging the community on the need to establish a Traditional Level Fundraising committee which will raise funds to help vulnerable girls. I am also leading my organization in educating the community to get lead of negative cultural practices which is putting most girls at risk of getting early and unwanted pregnancies plus early marriages.

Khomotso Khomape  - South Africa

They key drivers for early pregnancy in our communities for early  unwanted pregnancies are :

• Poor quality

• Poverty

• Dowry payment

• Low educational status

• Access to reproductive health services

• Peer pressure

• Tradition and culture

• Low use of Contraceptives

We must not forget that key drivers of teenage pregnancy include early sexual debut, gender based violence, inter-generational and transactional relationships.

The abovementioned play vital roles in early pregnancy in my community. Youths lack platforms which are youth- and user-friendly. Adolescent pregnancy remains a major contributor to maternal and child mortality.

I am working with adolescent girls in addressing challenges by having programs and dialogues where we talk clearly about their own sexual values and attitudes.

We also make sure that we talk with children often about sex as peer to peer. We make sure that we give them advice.

Chimwemwe Banda - Malawi

Here in my country as well as the community I live, there are more issues to do with early pregnancies due to lack of Youth friendly services and infrastructure with a safe environment for teenagers to get more information and knowledge about their Sexual bodies and Rights. This is a big problem to both youths who are living in rural and urban areas. In addition, they lack guidance from Community and School Mother groups who also have the role to play in these young girls.