Social grants and peer pressure among school kids have been identified as the reasons behind the high rate of teenage pregnancy in the poverty-stricken uMkhanyakude District in the far north of KwaZulu-Natal.
This was revealed by the NGO African Call for Cooperation and Integral Advancement (Accia), which is piloting programmes in different schools in uMkhanyakude to fight community stereotypes that lead to gender-based violence and teenage pregnancy.
According to the statistics released by the Department of Social Development in 2022, about 336 schoolgirls between the ages of 15 and 19 gave birth in July 2022 in uMkhanyakude District alone.
The crisis saw the intervention of American talk show host Oprah Winfrey, through her organisation Oprah’s Angel Network, to fight the scourge of teenage pregnancies in schools in the area.
Accia head in Southern Africa, Jean Daniel Kabati, told Scrolla.Africa in their research that most girls believe that getting pregnant makes them more valuable to their boyfriends.
He said some cite pregnancy as the means of getting a monthly income through grants.
And the grants they will receive play a part in enhancing their value, but so does their new status – proof that as child bearers they are capable of becoming wives in the future.
UMkhanyakude is among the districts ranked as the most poverty-stricken regions in South Africa.
He said there was a belief among some girls that if their boyfriends beat them it means they are loved.
And some girls, he said, “fall pregnant to prove the point that they can have kids like any other women and to avoid being bullied for failing to have kids”.
These attitudes have also led to a high school dropout rate of young girls in the district.
Kabati said that Accia has started programmes on a volunteer basis with the assistance of graduates from the University of KwaZulu-Natal. They provide psychologists, sports opportunities and other alternatives to fight the stereotypes that seem to be cultural norms in that district.