MEDIA RELEASE “Don’t shame pregnant teens – rather give proper sex education”.

11 March 2015

‘Instead of banishing teenage mothers to Robben Island, role players should rather be proactive by empowering parents with the necessary tools to give adequate and age appropriate sex education to their children’, according to Erna Rheeder, SAVF FAMNET co-ordinator.

This follows after President Jacob Zuma, in an address to traditional leaders yesterday, said that pregnant teenage mothers should be separated from their babies until they have completed their education.

Rheeder said that there are many factors that contribute to the alarming number of teen pregnancies in South Africa. ‘Teenage pregnancy is a complex phenomenon.  Amongst others, factors such as poverty and inadequate sex-education contribute to rise in teen pregnancies.  The stigmatization surrounding teenage pregnancies worsen the situation.  President Zuma’s remarks shame these girls and does nothing to motivate them to complete their education’.

The government, and other stake holders, should rather focus on empowering parents to be able to give useful and age appropriate sex-education to children. Studies show that parents are the main educators when it comes to all sexual issues.    When parents do not fulfil that role, children learn from friends and the media, which often are inappropriate sources of information.

In agreement of President Zuma the role of grandparents is not to raise their grandchildren, but rather to give support and parental guidance to their teenage mother as well as the teenage father. Teenagers must be allowed to finish school, but at the same time should be trained to be good parents with their children in their care. Good parenting include the foundation of building a strong bond with the child – which cannot be done in absence. Grandparents and community members are the ideal people to be mentors for young parents.

Good parent training programmes are available throughout South Africa. SAVF FAMNET provides basic parenting training as well as training in father involvement. The Parent Centre in Cape Town excels in different parenting programmes. One section is devoted to training of teenage parents – both fathers and mothers.

Families matter is a programme of the Department of Health which provides excellent sex education training.

Training programmes result in prevention of social ills, violence and family break up. It strengthen families, which is in line with the White Paper for families, launched in 2014. When it comes to application of government funding, subsidising these programmes should become an absolute priority.

Contact Erna Rheeder of SAVF FAMNET, for information on parenting programmes.

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