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When children give birth to children!

by Tendai Ruben Mbofana
04 Dec 2023 at 11:11hrs | Views
There could have never been a more heartbreaking and disturbing sight.

I had gone to the local clinic in my small town of Redcliff for a scheduled medical review.

This is an ordinary routine I have followed for years now.

However, this time around, there was nothing 'ordinary' about this trip to the clinic, which normally does not take more than an hour.

As we sat on the benches, in a rather short queue to see the resident medical practitioner - who, in reality, is a state registered nurse - my eyes fell upon a troubling sight.

At first, I could not immediately work out what I was seeing - but my brain did not take too long to figure out what was in front of me.

Here was a little girl - my estimate placing her age at not older than 15 years old - sitting there with a baby in her arms.

Was this just her little sister whom she had brought to the clinic?

Or, was it possible that she was the baby's minder, sent by the parents to the clinic for medical attention?

Nonetheless, I did not have to wait long for the answer to these vexing questions.

A baby has to be fed, eventually - and the mystery was immediately solved.

This was her baby!

In my mind, this phrase played out: this is a baby who gave birth to a baby!

To make matters worse, it was quite obvious from her demeanor and behavior that she was confused and clueless on how to care for her baby.

How could she know, as she was only a child - who herself needed to be taken care of by her own parents!

Fortunately, the nurses and other older women at the clinic were at hand to offer her some sound advice on such basics as how to hold and breastfeed her baby.

Unfortunately, though, she is far from being the only one.

In Zimbabwe, being a mother at that age is no longer a unique occurrence.

As a matter of fact, according to the United Nations Population Fund (UNPF), 32 percent of girls in Zimbabwe are married off before the age of 18 years.

12 percent of these are married off before they reach 15 years old.

Now those are shocking statistics!

Yet, that is not even the worst of it!

Data released by the Zimbabwe Statistical Agency (ZimStats) says that 69,000 girls between the ages of 10 and 19 years gave birth in 2022 alone.

This was largely attributed to the high prevalence of child marriages.

Another factor is drug abuse - whereby adolescent boys and girls engage in unsafe sexual activities whilst under the influence of illicit substances.

Actually, this year (2023) showed that 60 percent of school dropouts in the country were a result of drug and substance abuse.

This is according to the United Nations Children's Fund (UNCF), in collaboration with the government, Muthengo Development Studies, Zimbabwe Liberties and Drug Network, and Youth Advocates Zimbabwe.

What can be more chilling than such figures?

A few days ago, the Zimbabwe government moved to harmonize sexual consent laws by approving Principles on the Amendment of the Criminal Law (Codification Reform) Act that will criminalize sex with anyone below 18 years of age.

Similarly, the Constitution of Zimbabwe (section 78) states that every person who has attained the age of eighteen years has the right to found a family and no person may be compelled to enter into marriage against their will.

The Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act outlaws the pledging for the marriage of female persons, especially those under the age of 18 years.

As much as all these legal provisions are commendable efforts in curtailing the prevalence of child marriages and adolescent pregnancies, much more still needs to be done in reaching out to communities on the ground.

There is a need for a concerned approach in ending harmful cultural practices that have been fingered in child marriages - such as the pledging of children in marriage or as restitution to an aggrieved family.

The same goes for some religious sects that not only permit but actually propagate marriages with underage girls, mostly to more mature and already married church elders.

In addition, the fight against drug and substance abuse needs to be seen as genuine.

There is a common belief that government measures are half-hearted due to the suspected involvement of highly-connected individuals and cartels in the illicit drug trade.

In so doing, falling pregnant no longer becomes the only concern, but also the spread of sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

Finally, this scourge can not be seriously tackled without fixing the economy.

It is common knowledge that most of these underage ages are either being forced into marriages or enticed into early sexual relationships on account of poverty.

Some families are marrying off their young daughters in exchange for financial benefits from the 'husbands', who are usually more economically well-off.

Whilst underage girls are venturing into premature sexual activities in the hope of receiving, in return, financial support from their so-called 'blessers'.

What I found unbelievable, though, is the absence of readily available statistics on adolescent maternal mortality.

I really wonder why it would be nearly impossible to find how many girls under the age of 18 years died while giving birth or as a result of pregnancy-related complications.

Nevertheless, most of us heard of the most tragic death of 14-year-old Anna Machaya - who lost her life as she gave birth at a Johanne Masowe Apostolic sect shrine in Marange in 2021.

This was followed by another needless loss of life by 15-year-old Nekutenda Hwaramba in October 2022, under similar circumstances.

The scientific fact is that girls of that age are still physically immature to carry through a pregnancy.

It is now up to all of us to ensure that we protect our children from this scourge of adolescent pregnancies.

Parents have a duty in protecting their children - as opposed to perceiving them as tickets out of poverty.

In fact, we need to take a more visible and proactive role in teaching our children issues related to sexual and reproductive health.

We can no longer simply look on - or, in the case of some men, actually regard these as potential sexual partners.

There are still just children, and it is quite cruel, leaving them to give birth to other children.

© Tendai Ruben Mbofana is a social justice advocate and writer. Please feel free to WhatsApp or Call: +263715667700 | +263782283975, or email:, or visit website:

Source - Byo24News