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April 11, 2019

Growth in teenage pregnancies in Mbabala, Zambia

Growth in teenage pregnancies in Mbabala, Zambia

In Mbabala, there is a rising number of teenage pregnancies which has resulted in girls as young as 13 becoming mothers. Poverty and lack of education facilities are amongst some of the main reasons children become idle and start engaging in sexual activities. According to UNICEF, three in ten young women aged 13–19 have given birth already or are currently pregnant with their first child. As a result, around 16,000 young girls are dropping out of school.

IZA World of Labor author Phillip B. Levine has written on the topic of teenage childbearing and labor market implications for women. According to him, teenage childbearing is less a cause of inferior labor market outcomes for women than a marker of other social problems in a girl’s life. In his article he writes:

"To a great extent, teen childbearing is a marker of other, existing, social problems in a girl’s life. To improve employment and other economic outcomes for women, society must address the underlying social problems that lead women to become teen mothers in the first place, perhaps by concentrating on early childhood education and improving access to higher education." Levine adds: "Women who give birth at a young age do less well later in life in many ways, including in the labor market."

Herein lies the problem. Across Mbabala, which is home to about 2,000 people, there is only one primary school and the young people whose families can afford high school must travel to the mainland which is a four-hour boat ride and costs $40. Kedrick Kasabwe, a 50-year-old man who lives on the island commented that residents in Mbabala are extremely poor.

With the help of a group of elders and parents, he’s been able to organize meetings with teenagers and provide a safe space for discussion. "We need to holistically inform our youth that you can abstain from sex. If you cannot abstain, these are the safety procedures to go about it […] We cannot stop young and idle teenagers from engaging in sexual activities. But, through the talks, we can curb its dangers," Kasabwe said.

Read more articles on: Child-care support, early childhood education, and schooling.