Sunday Express is Lesotho's only Sunday newspaper. News: email@example.com | Advertising: firstname.lastname@example.org Telephone: +266 2231 5356
. . . the girls were forced into early marriages with herd boys, illegal miners & farm labourers
AT least 149 victims of early child marriages have given birth in three poverty-stricken areas of Mohale’s Hoek.
The births, resulting from early and unintended pregnancies (EUPs), are from January 2021 to May 2022.
The Ha-Nkau, Nohana and Mapharane are the worst affected areas with girls and young women aged 13 to 19 said to have entered into early marriages with herd boys, illegal miners and farm labourers in neighbouring South Africa.
According to health professionals and village health coordinators in the district, the girls either marry or just enter into sexual relations to escape grinding poverty.
This was revealed during a recent field trip for journalists supported by the United Nations Populations Fund (UNFPA).
Mohale’s Hoek district health management team (DHMT) sexual reproductive health (SRH) officer, ‘Manthabeleng Motumi, said child marriages had become the norm in the district.
The latest Lesotho Demographic Health Survey (LDHS) also ranks Mohale’s Hoek as the second highest district in terms of unmet family planning needs (22 percent). Mokhotlong is top ranked at 25 percent.
Health professionals at the workshop said some aborted their pregnancies at home and only sought health services when complications arose.
The nurse in charge of Mapharane Health Centre, Mookho Kotelo, said many girls did not use any contraceptives due to beliefs that these were for older women.
“The society is still in denial that children in those age groups should be using family planning services despite the information dissemination and sex education we conduct through public gatherings,” Ms Kotelo said.
“In most cases, parents say it is difficult to ask their children to seek family planning services hence the increasing numbers of EUPs among young girls.”
She said most of the girls who fell pregnant unintentionally were orphans living with their grandparents. They dropped out of school when they fell pregnant, she said.
Village health workers’ coordinator, Selometsi Motikoe, said most young girls in the area were impregnated by herd boys and illegal miners. There were reports of some of them being impregnated by their school mates.
“They tell us that they unintentionally fell pregnant while in sexual relationships they had entered into in the hope of getting something to help them survive.
“They choose herd boys is because they know that they will bring food to the table when they have impregnated them. They would rather be married than continue suffering at home. Pregnancy is, therefore, a ticket to a better life for the girls,” Ms Motikoe said.
On his part, UNFPA reproductive health commodity security coordinator, Tšeliso Masilo, said they were aware of the prevalence of EUPs in the district and complications arising from illegal abortions.
He said they supported the government by coming up with several strategies to address such issues and other matters of sexual reproductive health rights.
“When we purchase these commodities (contraceptives), we ensure that they are easily accessible in different government facilities and other places because our aim is to reduce the disturbingly high admissions due to abortion complications as well as early and unintended pregnancies.
“It is important for cultural and religious beliefs to be addressed in ways that allow adolescents to freely access these services,” Mr Masilo said.