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Teenage mother tells her story

WINDHOEK, Namibia - “Young girls, please focus on your education and stay away from relationships that will not benefit you but bring you challenges and delays from achieving your dreams,” advises 19-year old Talitha //Garoes.

 

//Garoes was only 17 when she became pregnant by a man who was ten years older than her.

 

When she first learned about the pregnancy, she felt scared and devastated and did not know what to do.

 

“I was so ashamed, I thought I cannot go to school anymore because my friends would laugh at me and tease me because I was going to be a mother,“ //Garoes recalls.

 

//Garoes shared her experience of being a teen mother during the Namibian launch of the Let’s Talk – Early and Unintended Pregnancy (EUP) campaign earlier this year at the UN Plaza in Katutura.

 

The “Let’s Talk” campaign is a social and behaviour change campaign to reduce EUP across 21 countries in the East and Southern Africa region.  

 

It is a collaboration between the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), key line government ministries and civil society organisations.

 

Namibia has a young population with two thirds below the age of 35 years. The national teenage pregnancy rate stands at 19% which means that about every fifth woman aged 15 to 19 has begun childbearing.

 

Thus there are many young women in similar situations as //Garoes. Rural teenagers and those who have no or only primary school education tend to start childbearing earlier than their urban and better-educated peers.

 

Researchers have indicated that increase in the age of women when they have their first birth, increases the levels of education and wealth.

 

Therefore, through investing in the well-being, health and education of young people countries with large populations of young people, like Namibia, can realise a demographic dividend as young people assume more responsibility for shaping more peaceful societies in the years ahead.

 

The investment is both a matter of upholding young people’s rights and a pathway to sound development.

 

Fortunately, Talitha //Garoes was encouraged to continue with school after delivering her baby and she thanks her supportive mother who was by her side throughout her pregnancy. Another important enabler was the supportive policy environment in Namibia: the country has a learner pregnancy policy that allows girls to return to school after delivery.

 

 //Garoes has a message to other young girls: “We are not able to handle the consequences of unprotected sex. Let us build a better future for ourselves so that we may be important and respectable women in society one day.”

 

Preventing early and unintended pregnancy lies at the heart of UNFPA’s work.  

 

To address the issue in Namibia, UNFPA is empowering adolescents to build life skills through comprehensive sexuality education (CSE) by supporting the Namibian Government in scaling up CSE in- and out-of-schools across the country.

 

In addition, UNFPA supports the Namibian Government in providing contraceptive services in public health facilities, training health providers on family planning and developing national strategies and guidelines addressing adolescent and youth sexual and reproductive health and rights.

 

Let’s Talk – Early and Unintended Pregnancy campaign is carried out in Namibia as part of a regional Safeguard Young People Programme, funded by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation. The SYP Programme empowers young people to protect themselves from STIs including HIV, early and unintended pregnancy, unsafe abortion, early marriage, gender-based violence and harmful cultural practices, while promoting gender-equitable norms.