Unplanned teenage pregnancy is a major problem in South Africa and Motlatso Rampedi has devoted her life to changing this.
More than 99 000 schoolgirls fell pregnant in 2013 – a rate of about 271 for every day of that year, reports news24.
This led to the SA Council for Educators emphasising the need for drastic improvement in sexual education and access to contraceptives such as condoms.
One youngster who was also a product of an “unintended pregnancy” and is now working to ensure other young women don’t have to deal with dropping out of school due to unplanned pregnancies is Motlatso Rampedi.
“My mother had me while she was still in school, while we joke about it, I am a product of an unintended pregnancy. From this background and being exposed to multiple other young women who have dropped out of school or had to delay achieving their goals because of pregnancy, I’ve always been interested in why even 25 years later unwanted pregnancies remains high and a problem in our society,” says Motlatso.
This led her to focus both her Honours and Masters research papers on understanding fertility and contraceptive use among young people.
“I came to understand that in South Africa knowledge about contraception is high. However, young women aren’t always able to match their fertility intentions with the correct methods of contraception and others lack the self-efficacy to request or discuss contraception with their partners. These were quite interesting findings and instead of submitting my thesis and graduating, I wanted to find ways to turn a research paper into a campaign or project that can actually assist young women in this regard – which led to the birth of the ‘iLoveCondoms’ project,” the 25-year-old says.
“The ‘iLoveCondoms’ project, which Motlatso started in 2017 is “a more practical way of engaging young women about contraception”. Motlatso goes around the country educating young women about methods of contraception that match their childbearing intentions.
“This involves practical sessions on the various methods of contraception available, how to use the methods, side effects of each method etc., as well as using story-telling and role playing to demonstrate how young women can build their confidence to request family planning services at health centres and have discussions with their sexual partners on using contraception,” says the 25-year-old.
Motlatso, who was recently featured in the Mail &Guardian’s Top 200 Young South Africans for 2018, says one of her goals for the ‘iLoveCondoms’ project is to extend the conversation to include men.
“My focus on young women is because women are often the ones that have to drop out of school etc. to become caregivers and empowering them will give them the confidence to make informed decisions about their reproductive health. My long-term goal for the ‘iLoveCondoms’ project is to extend the conversation to include men as well. For example, the naming of the project as ‘iLoveCondoms’ actually came up as result of the controversies and ‘myths’ often postulated by men that sex with condoms isn’t pleasurable which results in their female partners being reluctant to make use or request their partners to use condoms. I want to be able to discuss and challenge these myths with young men as well and empower them about things such as the male contraception etc.,” says Motlatso, who is now studying towards her PhD.
“I want this to be a national project, that brings together family planning activity, healthcare workers and motivational speakers to really empower and help women to use contraception and have children when they plan and want to. I want this project to be amongst the one’s cited to have reduced the high rate of unintended pregnancy in our country,” she concludes.