Over 2 000 students, teachers and civil society representatives convened at Makomo Primary School in Epworth, Harare on Thursday for the national launch of the “Let’s Talk!” Campaign on early and unintended pregnancy (EUP).
As part of the ESA Ministerial commitment endorsed in December 2013, the “Let’s Talk!” Campaign aims to empower young people, especially girls, with the knowledge, information and support to prevent EUP.
In her keynote address, the First Lady, Amai Auxillia Mnangagwa said the campaign was an opportunity to reinforce actions aimed at reducing child marriages and EUP.
“The ‘Let’s Talk’ campaign [is] an opportunity to amplify our actions… strategic partners [are] supporting the Government’s efforts to ensure that the campaign reaches all parts of the country. Let us all amplify our voices against EUP in churches, schools, health centres, community meetings, workplaces and social spaces. ‘Let’s Talk!’ Pregnancy at the Right Time. ‘Let’s Talk’ Health, Education and Rights for Pregnant Girls,” she said.
The key message “let’s talk about pregnancy at the right time” was echoed through narratives of shared responsibility of families, communities, and institutions to address the root causes of EUP.
The Minister of Primary and Secondary Education, Prof. Paul Mavhima said that the “Let’s Talk!” Campaign is coming just at the right time when his ministry is implementing multiple interventions that respond directly to the plight of the girl child, most notably, the prioritisation of the Education Amendment Bill. He highlighted that among the Bill’s key provisions are efforts to outlaw all forms of discrimination in schools including on the basis of pregnancy. To this end, the Bill provides for all learners to have access to quality education after experiencing pregnancy.
“For too long, when an adolescent becomes pregnant, we have pointed the finger at her. It is time that we point the finger at ourselves. If a girl gets pregnant that is because we have not provided her with the information, education, training and support she needs to prevent herself from becoming pregnant,” said Dr. Obadiah Moyo, Minister of Health and Child Care.
“Today we are launching the ‘Let’s Talk!’ Campaign on early and unintended pregnancy… I want to recognise the young people, the learners present here in such large numbers… this [campaign] is about you, this is about your future, your rights, and your lives,” said Prof. Gijzen.
Adolescent pregnancy remains a major challenge and contributor to maternal and child mortality, fuelled by grinding poverty across rural and urban communities in Zimbabwe. Perinatal deaths are 50% higher among babies born to mothers under the age of 20 years and adolescent mothers are more likely to have underweight babies at risk of infections and death during the early stages of infancy.
Factors associated with early and unintended pregnancy include, age, ethnicity, marital status, alcohol/drug abuse, knowledge of pregnancy prevention, orphanhood, religion, peer pressure, poverty, harmful socio-cultural practices such as early or forced marriages, sexual abuse, social media and the internet.
“These causes should be well understood to help the Government and partners to identify effective interventions to reduce early and unintended pregnancy. The launch of the Let’s Talk Campaign today is a good example of an evidence-informed intervention bringing together sectors such as education, health, gender and youth for the achievement of a common goal.”
Speaking at the same occasion, Professor Hubert Gijzen, the Director of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) Regional Office for Southern Africa alluded to alarmingly high levels of EUP in the region, Zimbabwe included.
He said adolescence fertility remains high (at 21.6%) among girls aged 15 – 19 years of age in Zimbabwe. This is almost 1 in 5 girls falling pregnant. Added to this, 41% of girls report that their sexual debut before 18 years was unwanted, and 24% of maternal deaths are girls aged 15-19 years.
In attendance at the event were high level dignitaries and government officials including First Lady of Zimbabwe, Her Excellency Mrs. Auxillia Mnangagwa; Minister of Primary and Secondary Education, Hon, Paul Mavima; Minister of Health and Child Care, Dr. Obadiah Moyo; Minister of Provincial Affairs for Harare, Senator Oliver Chidawu, UNESCO Regional Director for Southern Africa, Prof. Hubert Gijzen; First Secretary at the Swedish Embassy in Harare, Ms. Angelica Broman; heads of other UN agencies and representatives of civil society organisations (CSOs).
TOP PICK: First Lady Auxillia Mnangagwa, Health and Child Care Minister Dr Obadiah Moyo, Primary and Secondary Education Minister Professor Paul Mavhima, Minister of State for Harare Oliver Chidawu, Government partners and learners from various schools release balloons during the national launch of ‘Lets Talk Campaign’ in Epworth Thursday.