Programme Director, (A)Director General of Social Development Mr Linton Mchunu;
Minister of Tourism and (A)Minister of Social Development Ms Lindiwe Sisulu;
Minister of Health in the RSA Dr Joe Phaahla;
Minister of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare Prof. Paul Mavima;
Minister of Economic Planning and Development, Eswatini Dr Tambo Gina;
MEC for Social Development in KZN Ms Nonhlanhla Khoza;
Secretary General of the Ministry of Planning Mr Daniel Epembe Mosango;
Director of the Eastern and Southern African Region UNFPA Dr Banett Ndyabanangi;
Various Youth Representatives from the Southern African Development Community;
Princess of Africa Ms Yvonne Chaka Chaka;
Members of the Media;
Ladies and Gentlemen;
It is our honour to welcome you to this regional launch of the United Nations Population Fund’s (UNFPA) State of World Population Report which is to sensitise the world on priority issues affecting the dynamics of the global population. We welcome the UN and its agencies to our beautiful province of KwaZulu-Natal and because of your presence here today we truly feel we are part of the international and global community. Your presence here during this simultaneous regional launch of this important report, connects us to the rest of the world and we are pleased that you have chosen KwaZulu-Natal for this purpose and this wonderful venue of Zimbali.
PLANNING IN SOUTH AFRICA
Ladies and Gentlemen our country is guided to a large extent by the National Development Plan 2030 which among others sets targets to be attained if we are to become a developed country over the next decade or so. The NDP envisages a country that by 2030, will reach a stage where birth rates are falling, and the population is stabilising having a labour force of 64 percent of the population, with the children and the elderly being the smallest in number.
This is because internationally, such demographic profiles are associated with rising incomes, faster productivity growth, higher savings and rising living standards. This would be the opposite of our current situation where young people are unable to get work, and are found committing crime, alcohol abuse and other social ills. As a province we see planning as an important tool of the administration and have set up our own Provincial Planning Commission that implements our Provincial Growth and Development Plan. This report is of particular importance to us as we implement our PGDP and build a new nation principally by addressing the triple challenges of unemployment, poverty and inequality.
TEENAGE PREGNANCY IN KWAZULU-NATAL
Importantly, this year’s report is entitled “Seeing the Unseen: The case for action in the neglected crisis of unintended pregnancy”, and it amplifies the latest evidence on unintended pregnancy and its impact on women, girls, households, societies, countries and global development. Ladies and gentlemen, this report is presented as our country is pushing back to eliminate the alarming high levels of gender based violence against women and girl children. Unintended Pregnancies especially among children are in our view becoming a runaway fire that is sure to obliterate the future of our young girls before they fully blossom. The rate of teenage pregnancy in our Province and country remains relatively high. What is even shocking is the pregnancy rate among girls who are still in the pre-teenage stage. It is reported that the majority of girls who fall pregnant drop-out of school in South Africa, every year.
KwaZulu-Natal experiences 18 550 births by girls aged 10 to 17 in one year, while girls and young women aged 15 – 24 are getting infected with HIV in the country every week. In a developing country such as ours there is a correlation between teenage pregnancy and economic status. While this is typical of most developing countries at the same time we believe that early and unplanned pregnancies should not hold back the female or girl child from active participation in the economic and social activities. We have also engaging Boys and Men in programmes targeting their behaviour and role in violence and sexual behaviours.
As the report found, social and economic development and higher levels of gender inequality correlate to unintended pregnancy. In that way the report confirms the powerful developmental case for investing in reproductive rights to reduce unintended pregnancy. The report emphasizes that unintended pregnancies are a reflection of overall social development and higher levels of choice in reproductive decision-making are part of a positive cycle fuelling other development gains. The report found that the incidence of unintended pregnancy varies widely by region and within region.
There are currently 92 per 1000 women aged 15-49 years in East and Southern Africa in 2015-19 and varies from 74 in Zimbabwe to 145 in Uganda or 123 in Zambia.
According to the report unintended pregnancies continue to pose a significant burden in many countries in East and Southern Africa. We are also told that the adolescent birth rate for the region is 92 per 1,000 girls aged 15 to 19 (2020-2025) which is more than double the global rate of 40 per 1000.
In the region, 31 percent of girls in the region were married by age 18 (2005-2020) compared to 26 percent globally. We have also noted among the report’s highlights that teenage pregnancy rates may
have increased during the pandemic, with this uptick being attributed to the limited safe space and sustained exposure to risk factors arising due to COVID-19-related school closures. The Covid-19 related shutdown may also have restricted access to responsive and youth friendly sexual and reproductive health-care services. As nations we have to double the efforts to protect the most vulnerable amongst us, our girl children.
Unintended pregnancy phenomena is a societal problem that require targeted awareness and educational campaigns to nip it in the bud. It requires every family, parent, teacher, traditional and democratically elected leaders to take an active interest in the life of their girl children and women in society. It requires that young boys and man are trained and educated to counter the negative impact of unintended pregnancies on the lives of the adolescent girls and young women.
These unintended pregnancies do not happen on their own, there is a perpetrator and we need to intensify programmes to target the perpetrators. We need innovative strategies of engaging to reverse and arrest the drivers this phenomena in our province and country.
THE SUGAR DADDY PHENOMENON IN KWAZULU-NATAL
Ladies and Gentlemen the findings of this report tie in with our own research which shows that girl children appear to contract HIV much earlier than their male counterparts. This phenomenon is ascribed to the fact that girls are in relations with older men. While in high school, the girls are all HIV negative, but when they complete grade 12, about 7-10 % of girls are HIV positive while the boys of the same age are HIV negative. This is because the girls are not sleeping with boys of the same age and therefore getting infected by older generation. By the same token the girls are being impregnated by older men even when they are not ready to start a family.
This means society must confront and condemn the practice whereby much older men with big cars and relatively more money, go after young women. This should have no place in our society.
Other related causes of early teenage pregnancy are linked to early sexual debut, the inconsistent use of condoms and unprotected sex. We also consider that teenage pregnancy is also driven by sexual violence; inter-generational sex or the Sugar Daddy syndrome; Multiple sexual partnerships as well as the abuse of alcohol consumption and reckless sexual engagements.
We welcome the State of World Population Report which will become a valuable tool in our planning kit for time to come. With those few words, may we take this opportunity on behalf of the government and people of KwaZulu-Natal welcome you all to our province. We would like to extend a special welcome to the representatives of the UNFPA, the SADC Ministers in our midst today, and each and everyone of you,
our Distinguished Guests, Ladies Gentlemen.
I Thank You!