It is estimated that one in three girls in South Africa have given birth by the age of 20 and with the high rate of HIV infection, this concern has been intensified.

The latest national survey recorded 16% of pregnant women under the age of 20 tested HIV positive, not to mention other Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs). It is also stated that this shocking number of teenage pregnancies are directly linked to gangsterism, coercion and substance abuse – a key discussion point in Mustadafin Foundation’s teenage pregnancy awareness programme.

Mustadafin Foundation launched its first teenage pregnancy awareness campaign on Tuesday, 12 May 2015 at its community centres in Tafelsig and Delft, which will run throughout the month. In addition to this campaign, these centres also run programmes that council women dealing with abuse, exploitation and oppression.

Anel Annandale, a psychologist based in Cape Town who works with children between the ages of two and 21-years-old, believes that teen moms are more likely to suffer from Post-Natal Depression because of the large amount of situational anxiety that they experience; leaving them with a feeling of isolation.

“Education is pivotal when it comes to teenage pregnancy, especially to children who live in disadvantaged communities where they don’t have the necessary support structures at home,” says Ghairunisa Johnstone, director at Mustadafin Foundation. The non-profit organisation has various health programmes that help educate community members about issues such as HIV/Aids, TB and other diseases.

“During our teenage pregnancy awareness campaign we will provide teenagers with sex education, teen development awareness, communication skills, lifestyle workshops and counselling,” explains Johnstone.

Salmah*, a single mother abandoned by her husband to raise her child alone has received tremendous amounts of help from Mustadafin Foundation. Although not a teenager, Salmah became all too familiar with the struggles one faces when adjusting to a new lifestyle; balancing work and her other responsibilities while experiencing Post-Natal Depression, hormonal imbalances and sleep deprivation.

Salmah admits that motherhood is difficult enough without having to fend for yourself and your baby as a result of being a single mother. “I don’t think that the youth are informed as to what the actual day-to-day challenges are when it comes to having children. They are not aware of what pregnancy does to your body, how it impacts your health, how it can contribute to chronic fatigue, how it becomes difficult to mentally focus on your work or studies when you can’t get enough sleep and how it affects relationships and the way we behave,” she explains.

“A sex education or awareness campaign for the youth is a priority in combating this problem and working towards prevention. In order to address teenage pregnancy holistically it is imperative to engage all stakeholders. When everyone understands their role at home, in the community and at school, it is possible to realise the desired change,” says Johnstone.

“In addition to community-based interventions, adolescent-friendly health services and access to information and support can help combat the high rise in teenage pregnancy. Prevention is better than cure. Female and male teenagers need to know the process and responsibility of being pregnant and raising a child, which is exactly what we are addressing in the awareness campaign,” concludes Johnstone. 

For more information and to volunteer call +27 21 633 0010 or visit the Mustadafin website. Alternatively, connect with the foundation via Facebook.

*Name has been changed to protect the woman’s identity