Jennifer Hartnick MPP
DA Western Cape Provincial Spokesperson for Women, Children and people with disabilities
As the DA spokesperson for the Department of Premier, Youth, Gender and People living with Disabilities, I am well aware of the high prevalence of teenage pregnancies in the Western Cape. I am also well aware of the Western Cape Governments efforts to counter teenage pregnancies and other social ills which plague our province, but the article in the Die Son (4 July 2013) headlined, “11-jarige pregnant” (11 year old pregnant) shocked me beyond description. The article reported on a pregnant 11 year old girl from Swellendam and brought to light that in the past financial year, in the Eden District alone, there was 8799 births to mothers under the age of 18.
The provided statistics was a cause for serious concern and the comment from a teen mother stuck with me, “My toekoms is opgemors. Ek het niks van my jongmensdae nie.” (My future is ruined. I no longer have my childhood). This very comment stuck with me because there are so many free precautionary measures available and so many alternatives to falling pregnant as a teenager.
The Minister of the Department of Social Development, Minister Fritz’s UNCONFERENCING comes to mind. This was his department’s way of creating a space for youth of the Western Cape to “school” government on their issues and suggest ways in which the government can assist them in creating lives they can value. I will personally consult with the minister on this issue as it is unacceptable that a child as young as 11 years old is expecting a child. Who is then responsible for that child, if the parent herself is still a child? How will this child be emotionally and financially cared for?
The prevalence of teenage pregnancies defeats the purpose of the alternatives and provisions made by the Western Cape Government. Provincial health facilities provide free contraception, which include the pill and the injection, condoms for both male and females as well as qualified staff who offer advice on sexual matters. In addition to the already existing informative drives, not only from the Western Cape Government, but other NGOs as well, such as LoveLife and Molo Sangalolo, more awareness should be created in our communities. In so doing, an effort is then made to afford children the opportunity to think differently about sex, from an informed perspective. This will also create a self-dependent culture to counter the already established culture of entitlement which thrives on state dependency because teenage pregnancy can be prevented.