Physical / Reproductive health / Research / Women

Teenage pregnancy in rural communities: why is it happening?

Post-grad Pharmacy student Nomsa Chemuru is currently working on a project to prevent teenage pregnancy in the rural communities of Glenmore and Dwayana. Continuing a project that started three years ago, Chemuru was tasked with developing a manual for community care workers to use in facilitating the prevention of teenage pregnancy. Using the pan-3 model, which classifies factors affecting teenage pregnancy into perceptions of people, resources available in the community to promote such activities, and the people who actually influence health promotion and healthy behaviours, she found the various causes of teenage pregnancy:

  1. Perceptions

According to interviews conducted with various community members, Chemuru found that teenagers have negative perceptions with regards to contraceptives. “Teenagers don’t want to use contraceptives like the pill because they are afraid that their bodies are going to change, that they are going to gain weight, or that their breasts are going to sag,” she said. Another perception she discovered is that teenagers feel that they are too young to be engaging in sexual activity and therefore do not want to be caught buying contraception by older community members.

  1. Resources

Limited resources and structural influences are another cause of teenage pregnancy. In these rural communities, there are a limited amount of clinics. Additionally access to these clinics is difficult, as these are areas with a lack of transport, forcing teenagers to have to walk long distances to clinics in order to acquire contraception. “The motivation to walk all the way to the clinic just for a condom just isn’t there,” said Chemuru.

According to Chemuru, some teenagers are influenced to get pregnant because of the money that they might receive from the child support grant. “These are rural communities- they have low economic status, so if they get a child support grant, it’s going to help them put food on the table. You do get more selfish reasons where girls want the money to get their hair done or to buy things they want,” Chemuru adds.

  1. Influence

Another factor to blame is the fact that parents are reluctant to talk to their teenage daughters about contraceptives or safe sex out of fear of encouraging sexual behaviour. Chemuru found that parents in these communities feel that ‘the more you know, the more you are likely to do it.’ Their silence is even more detrimental, as Chemuru explained: “Even if you don’t talk about it, they may still engage in sexual activity, but they don’t know how to prevent pregnancy because no one is talking about it.”

Another influence is a cultural aspect – often teenagers living with their grandmothers who are engrossed in traditional culture are pressured to prove their fertility before marriage, and so many teenager girls are getting pregnant in order to ensure that they can get married.

Chemuru is working closely with the community health care workers, who are trusted by the youth as they are members of the community. “We are trying to incorporate health promotion for the prevention of teenage pregnancy in their existing community development programmes, said Chemuru. “We conducted workshops for the community care workers for the development of the facilitation manual that they are going to use, so now they are in the implementation phases where they use that manual on a day to day basis.” It is through finding solutions to the three factors outlined by the pan-3 model that will facilitate change regarding the issue of teenage pregnancy.

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