Society has always struggled with the issue of teen parenthood and of particular importance is the issue of teen motherhood. However, the agenda has always been on ensuring that adults should have access to contraceptive methods of their choice but not the youth. This entails that the adults will be able to choose whether and when to have children and in turn this leads to social and economic empowerment.
Sexual and Reproductive Health Services are available but we do not give room for the youth to access them and yet our wish is to empower them economically and socially. While the idea is to get adolescent girls to acquire some education, we do not strongly deal with some factors that prevent them from going to school. One such factor is the issue of early pregnancies and parenthood.
It is quite saddening to think of single young mothers who are confronted with the struggle of making ends meet. Whether they come from a rich or a poor country, the single young mothers are unfairly regarded as a burden to the public purse. While each might provoke a different policy response, both suffer the same underlying prejudice and stigma.
There are a few (far too few) progressive comprehensive sexuality education (CSE) curricula which talk about motherhood and parenting, but, let’s face it, most references to teenage motherhood in sex education are firmly negative. There is a consensus that economic and educational opportunity is limited by early childbirth and the question is what are we doing about it?
We want young people to know about the basic biology of sex and about taking care, taking precautions, taking responsibility and avoiding infections. We want them to understand options, understand emotions and the ways in which relationships work.
The solution to teen parenthood does not lie in stigmatizing teen parents but it lies within the minds of policy makers and the youth themselves. However, the youth cannot help to solve the situation unless they are equipped with the necessary information and services. This is where comprehensive sexual and reproductive health (SRH) education comes handy. SRH education will equip the youth with knowledge pertaining to their sex and sexuality and avoid experimenting which brings out disastrous results.
On the other hand, policy makers need to emphasize on youth friendly health services where young people should be free to go and access sexual reproductive health services. If we believe in empowering young people, we should not deny them their sexual and reproductive health rights.