Teenage motherhood is a cause of concern. Teen mothers face challenges that weaken their self esteem such as marginalisation, discrimination, isolation, and rejection.
Cowdray-Park is one of the fast growing suburbs in Bulawayo, with the highest rate of unemployed youths that have been aligned to escalating crime that include prostitution, rape and child abuse.This suburb is shebeen fested and there is a sports bar popularly known as ‘Mahweba’, were youths are paid as little as $1 for sex work in order to make a living due to unemploment and being poverty stricken.
In an interview with one of the girls, aged 17, who resides at an area dubbed ¨dark city¨ a section of Cowdray Park without electricity, said; “My parents died when I was in Grade six and I had to take care of my four siblings and my one-year-old daughter.¨ ”It´s my duty to look after them by ensuring they dress and eat well.
I usually go to the sports bar at terminus were men buy sex for $3 but when business is low they pay as little as a $1.” For these girls becoming pregnant is an ordeal hardly ever planned for. It is often as the result of social, economic and ﬁnancial pressures. The writer also came across poverty stricken teenagers who are vulnerable and cannot fend for themselves and who also lack ﬁnancial support as most of the teenage mothers cannot afford to feed their little ones.
Linda* whose parents work in South Africa, looks after her siblings and her daughter, lives in a two-roomed house with no water and electricity in Cowdray-Park’s new stands. The baby’s father ran away to Botswana. “I struggle a lot to support both my siblings after the death of my mother and my father remarried; he only sends us money once in a blue moon considering that he has another family to support in South Africa.” narrating her ordeal in a low voice ﬁlled with anger and tears ﬂowing down her cheeks.
Most teenage mothers that were interviewed are school dropouts, making them less marketable in the business world, therefore they are relegated to non-paying jobs such as housework. To say poverty renders doesnt give them a voice and lack of strength exacerbates physical weakness.
According to the teenage mothers I spoke to, they somewhat feel neglected by society and by their immediate families, in particular. I also interviewed a few nurses from Cowdray Park and they had this to say;
“Yes the community is aware of the rights of teenage mothers but cannot give any support beyond medical”
However nurses from Cowdray-Park clinic also suggested that children should stop running after men until the time is right and also concentrate on their education, and make use of contraceptives which are provided both in schools and clinics.
As they are taught to abstain to reduce unwanted pregnancies, STIs and the deadly HIV and they must concentrate on education empowerment. Sadly for some teenage mothers that visit Cowdray Park clinic, from time to time, also revealed that they are unfairly mistreated by nurses.
In 2011 the fertility rate among teenage girls aged between 15 and 19 was 112 births per 1000 girls, compared to 99 births per 1000 in 2006 according to the Zimbabwe Demographic and Health Survey (ZDHS).
Although, it has been noted that teenage pregnancy is a serious societal problem that needs the government and the community as well as the nurses, it is important that teenagers empower themselves through education and other creative and innovative socio-economic initiatives that they can embark on.