Minister of Social Development Lindiwe Zulu has urged parties to put aside their political differences and fight the scourge of teenage pregnancy after 90,000 children fell pregnant this year.
Zulu said the figures were shocking, and the fight cannot be left to one sector of society alone.
Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) MP Zandile Majozi called for police to act swiftly against those who sexually abuse girls, as some of the children who gave birth were as young as 10 years old.
In the report that was tabled in Parliament before the Multi-Party Women’s Caucus on Thursday, it showed that 88,122 schoolgirls between the ages of 15 and 19 years old fell pregnant this year. In addition, 2,328 girls between 10 and 14 years old also fell pregnant during the year.
Deputy Minister of Small Business Development Dipuo Peters said it was shocking that 10-year-old girls were falling pregnant, and some of the abuses happen outside school.
Zulu said women from different political parties must forge unity in the fight against this scourge.
She said there were many girls who were getting pregnant at an early age, and government has to intervene.
“From the department of social development, please help us with our programmes in dealing with teenage pregnancy because it is increasing. We need to work together to ensure that we end this teenage pregnancy and all the concerns that we have around teenage pregnancy. We must work together with families and with communities.
“I want to say to the caucus and the women of South Africa in their different political parties that while we might have differences in our political approach, we cannot have differences when it comes to the building of families, when it comes to helping our children, and when it comes to building this country,” said Zulu.
Majozi said they cannot fold their arms when children are facing the scourge of sexual violence and falling pregnant at a young age.
“Our children are suffering more than us. We cannot stand and watch while everything is falling apart,” said Majozi.
African National Congress (ANC) MP Jane Mananiso called for the South African Police Service (SAPS) to intervene as this was a crisis.
Acting Director-General in the Department of Social Development, Linton Mchunu, said the statistics show that in the 2022/23 financial year, there were 2,328 girls between the ages of 10 and 14 who delivered babies in health facilities.
There were 88,122 girls between the ages of 15 and 19 who delivered babies in health facilities.
Mchunu said they were concerned about the increasing number of teenage pregnancies.
Manala Makua, the Chief Director of Women’s, Maternal, and Reproductive Health in the Department of Health, said they were making interventions to fight the scourge.
“I see the Department of Health as a whistleblower in terms of this concept. I am saying it’s a whistleblower because I think the numbers that we are collecting give an indication as to whether the interventions that we are making across different sectors (the department of basic education, the departments of social development, and the department of health) are bearing fruit.
"I must indicate that at the time that we started collecting this data, we were reporting around 3,500 pregnant girls. I am talking about the age range of 10–14 years. Those are the younger ones. Actually, they are children. We see the phenomenon that it increased in 2019/20, and that is when departments were alerted that it’s a crisis. It actually went up in 2021,” said Makua.
Mchunu said they were concerned about the increasing number of girls falling pregnant. They were robbed of their childhood as they became mothers at an early age.
“It’s not teenagers who are impregnating teenagers. It’s mostly adults who are impregnating teenagers. This amounts to statutory rape, and we believe the law must take its course in this regard, and it must be applied in the strongest forms,” said Mchunu.