Early Pregnancy and Stigmatisation
Programme Partners warn against the stigmatisation that can occur in a sport programme when a teen participant becomes pregnant. In Rwanda, for example, many of the coaches at AKWOS said that once a girl in their programme becomes pregnant, the whole group ostracises her. They refuse to involve her in sport activities, such as record taking or anything non-athletic. They follow the social norm rather than try to change or confront it. Therefore, it is important that sport programmes address the issue of stigmatisation explicitly and attempt to include all girls equally and fairly.
Of the half a million deaths that result from complications during pregnancy and childbirth, 99% of those occur in developing countries. Africa and Asia account for 95% of all these deaths. The worst part is that most of these deaths are unnecessary. Haemorrhage, unsafe abortion, and obstructed labour account for more than 80% of maternal deaths, all of which could be prevented if sufficient family planning and health services were available.
Due to physical immaturity, adolescent mothers are much more likely to experience these complications, which can all cause serious, long-term health consequences. Girls who have their first baby when they are aged 15-19 years are twice as likely to die due to pregnancy than adult women, and girls aged 10-14 years are five times more likely to die. In addition, the babies of adolescent mothers are more likely to die during their first month of life and/or experience serious health problems. Maternal health and mortality is linked with women’s low status in the household and their restricted mobility.
Sport programmes should seek to empower adolescent girls with their maternal health and rights in way that enables them to make independent, informed decisions. Here programmes should adopt a holistic approach that seeks to promote livelihood, rights and health well-being. It’s important to educate girls about the risks of early pregnancy, while recognising that there are systematic and structural challenges that can impede their ability to make independent decisions.
It can be critical to integrate male involvement so as to capture male responsibility and participation in promoting gender equality for improved maternal health. Programmes can:
• Mobilise communities, families, men and boys to support adolescent girls.
• Support religious and community leaders and head teachers to foster healthier, more supportive communities where girls can create and execute their own solutions.
• Engage men and boys as programme co-beneficiaries and as important agents of solutions.
Community volunteers can also provide health information, including the major danger signs of pregnancy, to pregnant women and mothers. In some areas, community committees have been formed to raise awareness about maternal health, and to support local solutions to the main barriers to safe pregnancy and childbirth in their communities.
Adolescent Girl Life Skills: