Investing in teenage girls is not only about money, but is also about giving these young women the necessary attention in terms of time and attention, says Emilia Nekongo, a Grade 12 learner at Immanuel Shifidi Secondary School.
As the world celebrated World Population Da – which is observed every year on July 11 – ‘Investing in teenagers’ was the theme that thrilled pupils at Immanuel Shifidi Secondary School in Katutura, as they got more than they bargained for on Monday morning.
The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) gathered the pupils in the school hall for an educational outreach programme, specifically targeting teenage girls in Namibia in line with the aims of the World Population Day celebration.
Speaking about investing in teenage girls, Nekongo said she believes teenage girls are the mothers and the leaders of tomorrow’s nation: “Teenage girls face so many problems, like child marriage, teenage pregnancy, poverty and that drives them to fall prey to sugar daddies that are known as blessers.”
“When these girls engage in sexual intercourse in order to get money and gifts, they think it’s good, but then the consequences will affect them in future. I would like to advise young people to focus more on their schoolwork, so that they can get the best type of investors that will benefit their lives,” she said.
Martha Ezimbi, who spoke on the theme: ‘My past or current circumstance does not define my destiny’, advised fellow learners not to allow their circumstances to dictate their future, but to believe in themselves.
“Success comes with a lot of sacrifices, but it is not how many times you fail that matters but the many times you get up after you have failed,” said Ezimbi.
Another learner, Peaches van Wyk, who spoke on the topic: ‘If opportunity doesn’t knock, build a door’, added that the biggest fear is not that there are inadequate opportunities, but it has more to do with being able to do something beyond the ordinary.
“If you can’t come across the opportunity you want, you have to take the initiative to increase your chances of getting that opportunity,” van Wyk advised fellow learners.
World Population Day aims to raise awareness of global population issues and this year the focus was on the need to invest in teenage girls, with emphasis on the need to empower teenagers by motivating them to use education as the key to change, in order for them to make the right choices, in terms of academic subjects to direct them in their career choices, to abstain from unsafe sexual activities and to help them realise their full potential by becoming a positive force for transformation in their homes, community and country.
Officials of the UNFPA and the Ministry of Youth, National Service, Sport and Culture (MYNSSC), as well as pupils delivered motivational speeches and the learners were also quizzed on various cardinal topics affecting the nation.
According to UNFPA every day over 20,000 girls under the age of 18 give birth in developing countries – over 7 million a year. Adolescent pregnancy is usually not the result of a deliberate choice. Rather, it is the consequence of an absence of choices.
Girls who become pregnant tend to be poorer and thave little or no access to sexual and reproductive healthcare and information.
UNFPA’s programmes aim to end child marriage, curb adolescent pregnancy and to empower girls to make informed choices about their health and lives. In 2015 alone, UNFPA programmes helped 11.2 million girls between the ages of ten and 19 years old to gain access to sexual and reproductive health services and information.