“When a young girl gets pregnant, it means the system has failed her. We have failed her,” said UNESCO Regional Director for Southern Africa, Prof. Hubert Gijzen at the launch of the ‘Let’s Talk!’ Campaign in Johannesburg, South Africa on 31 July 2019.
‘Let’s Talk!’ is a social and behaviour change campaign to reduce early and unintended pregnancies (EUP) across 21 Eastern and Southern African countries.
“In the ‘Let’s Talk’ Campaign, we have a tremendous opportunity to re-write the narrative,” said Prof. Gijzen.
“From blaming the girl child, to equipping her and the boy child with knowledge and tools necessary for pregnancy prevention. We have an opportunity to admit that yes we have failed our youth especially the girl child. But now we are prepared to fix the system. So that no more injustice is done to girls. We know we can do better because girls deserve better,” he said.
Prof. Gijzen emphasized how accessing sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) and timely comprehensive sexuality education (CSE) can change the trajectory of adolescent girls’ lives.
Officially launching the Campaign, South African Minister of Basic Education, Angelina Motshekga said EUP has adverse impacts on educational opportunities, achievements and future of adolescents, especially the girl child. She reiterated the need for coordinated efforts to accelerate progress in the prevention and management of EUP in the country as well as regionally.
If young people in East and Southern Africa, who account for 32 per cent of the region’s total population, are to fulfil their potential they must be healthy, educated and empowered.
“We come to this matter with a sense of urgency. We have to do more and we have to commit to ending early and unintended pregnancies,” said Dr. Julitta Onabanjo, UNFPA Regional Director for East and Southern Africa.
“Only by investing in girls will we be able to create an inclusive society and economy, and harness the demographic dividend for Africa,” she added.
The ‘Let’s Talk!’ Campaign will be implemented until December 2020, and envisions an Eastern and Southern Africa region where all adolescents are empowered and have the knowledge, information, agency and support to prevent early and unintended pregnancy and reach their full potential.
Over 150 participants from 13 Eastern and Southern African countries attended the launch, including members of the SADC Parliamentary Forum, Lesotho Minister of Education and Training and Zimbabwe’s Deputy Minister of Primary and Secondary Education.
#LetsTalkEUP Ambassador, renowned DJ Zinhle, performed a song which produced exclusively for the Campaign at the launch. The song features the Campaign pillars of health, education and rights, within the context of EUP. It aims to engage and excite young people across the region, building upon DJ Zinhle’s immense popularity and appeal.
The launch introduced the Campaign to the high-level stakeholders and raised awareness on the magnitude of EUP, as well as the need to implement preventative actions to address its devastating social and economic impacts, especially for the lives of adolescent girls and young women, but also men and boys and society as a whole.