IT is alarming to hear that over 1,000 girls get pregnant every year in North Western province and that of the 27,168 tested for HIV over 1,395 tested positive.
According to the National AIDS Council (NAC) in North-Western Province has disclosed that over one thousand school girls fall pregnant every year in the region which shows that HIV comprehensive knowledge is low and the province is not doing well.
Provincial AIDS Coordination Advisor, Hillary Sakala said the increase in the number of pregnancies shows low HIV comprehensive knowledge in the province.
Mr Sakala said the number of girls falling pregnant annually is directly related to the increase in the number of HIV/AIDS cases.
According to school pregnancies statistics of 2019, the number of girls who fell pregnant stood at 1,232.
These revelations were made during a Strengthening Girls Right Project phase three meeting being organized by Germany Agency for International Cooperation (GIZ) in conjunction with NAC in Solwezi.
Last Sunday, the world was commemorating the Day of the Girl and it is sad that many girls not only have their childhood cut off but then are put at risk of death from AIDS after contracting HIV.
GIZ Girls Rights Development Advisor, Benjamin Kalkum says the Strengthening Girls Right Project is designed to address challenges adolescents are facing in school and other set ups with regards to sexual education.
Mr Kalkum said the project is a three years programme being implemented in three province that include Lusaka, Southern and North Western Provinces.
“It is a three years program of which is almost coming to the end of the first year targeting girls and young women”, he said.
A learning tool kit called a Joint in Circuit (JIC) which is used to explain sexual education in a simple way has been developed.
He said JIC is riding on the comprehensive sexuality education programme which is already in the education curriculum.
Mr Kalkum explained that the tool kit has different tools which are used depending on the age group being taught and it is designed to suit the Zambian culture.
According to Joar Svanemyr, early pregnancy occurs frequently in Zambia and is considered a public health issue. The aim of this study was to improve understanding of how gendered sexual norms make young unmarried girls vulnerable to unintended pregnancies in a specific context.
The 2018 Adolescent pregnancy and social norms in Zambia research combined individual interviews and focus group discussions with girls and boys aged 13–18 years and the parents of other young people of this same age, with peer interviews with girls aged 13–20 years at four sites in the southern province of Zambia.
For girls, sexual relationships and early pregnancies were at odds with dominant norms and were consistently met with disapproval because they led to economic difficulties for young women and their parents, school dropouts and health problems for the young woman and her baby.
Lack of resources and insufficient knowledge about sexuality and reproduction, together with gender norms governing sexual behaviour and contraceptive use, combine to place adolescent girls in a vulnerable position with respect to unintended pregnancy.
According to Demographic and Health Survey (DHS) data, the percentage of women aged 20–24 in Zambia who gave birth before the age of 18 decreased only slightly from 35% in 2001–2002 to 31% in 2013 – 2014.
The research further finds that as in low-income countries in general, adolescent birth rates in Zambia are higher among those in rural areas, with lower levels of education and poorer households, and lower among those in urban areas, with higher levels of education and wealthier households.
The age of birth giving is moreover associated with education, and the age at first birth increases with education. Women with no education give birth around 2 years earlier than women with secondary education. Education is stated as a right and all school age children are expected to go to school in Zambia, but school enrolment and drop-outs are highly unequal between boys and girls and between rural and urban areas.
Early pregnancy is closely related to early marriage. The legal age of marriage is 21 unless parents provide consent to marriage before this age.
Nevertheless, the DHS 2013/14 reports that 45% of women in the age group 25–49 were married by the age of 18.
Early marriage and early pregnancy are associated with poverty, and the scale of adolescent marriage and childbearing is perceived to be a societal challenge of substantial proportions in Zambia.
Poverty is again particularly widespread in rural areas where about 70% of the population is categorised as poor.
It would be wise for the general public to take into consideration these alarming statistics that clearly indicate the lack of knowledge amongst our children as related to sexuality and health.
We need to help protect our girls and the general well-being of the country by educating them on these relevant matters.