Close to a fifth of Botswana’s population is a mistake – literally. And every year tax payers have to shell out millions of Pulas to clean up after adolescents whose bedroom experiments went awry. To get a clearer picture on how big the problem is, consider these statistics: In a population of 2,024 904, young people aged 15-24 make up 20.3% of the population of Botswana.
One out of four women aged 15 to 49 has an unmet need for family planning -they wish to delay their next pregnancy by two years or more, but are not using any method of contraception. Among women ages 20 to 24, one out of four is pregnant by age 18, and one out of four gives birth by age 20. In this same age group, women in rural areas are twice as likely to be pregnant by age 18 as women in urban areas, increasing the likelihood of childbearing at a young age. Women who are poor, have less education, and are living in rural areas have the youngest median age at first birth. All these increase the likelihood of unintended and unwanted pregnancies, unsafely performed abortion, high-risk births, and disease and death from pregnancy-related complications.
The numbers reveal that Botswana is a young country with a fifth of the population still under 24. The country stands to benefit from this demographic dividend, but not as long as babies are still making babies.
Minister Fidelis Molao told Parliament two years ago that “the adolescent fertility rate in Botswana is estimated at 51 births per 1000 women aged 15-19 years and the trend continues to rise.”
Answering a question in Parliament Molao said in 2016 the ministry in collaboration with United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) conducted a rapid study to determine the rate of drop out due to pregnancy and causes of such pregnancy.
“For the year 2016, we had six drop outs of 16 536 in pre-primary, 271 out of 315 261 in primary school, 1 194 out of 116 068 in junior secondary and 477 out of 57 203 in senior secondary.” That close to 300 primary school pupils become mothers every year represents a national crisis of health, education and opportunity.
Speaking at the UNFPA media training about Population and Development, Sustainable Development Goals and Prevention of sexual exploitation and abuse held on the 29 August 2019 at Travel Lodge, UNFPA Youth Specialist Kefilwe Koogotsitse said although contraceptive prevalence has increased from 42% to 52.8% among women, education and awareness on family planning and contraceptives are still lagging behind. “Ensuring access to voluntary family planning helps manage rapid population growth by preventing unintended pregnancies while reducing maternal and child mortality, and improving the health and economic well-being of families and communities. There are a few factors which contribute to little or no use of contraceptives. Young people tend to complain about health service workers bias towards them; they complain that they aren’t given adequate information on family planning and sexual health because these workers impose on them what they believe to be right and wrong. Unmet need for family planning is also a major problem. Generally, unmet need for family planning is high where contraceptive prevalence is low. A lot of women have an unmet need for family planning, this means that they want to stop or delay childbearing but they aren’t using any method of contraception. I think we shouldn’t overlook the strides that the government makes with regards to greater commitments to family planning and the reproductive health of the large young generation. Among youth ages 15 to 24, more than 10 percent of girls and 20 percent of boys are having sex at age 15. Married youth in this age group report the highest unmet need for family planning. During adolescence, young people develop many of the behaviors and relationships they will carry into their adult lives. Providing youth-friendly family planning information and services will drastically improve the health of this generation while contributing to higher educational attainment and greater opportunities for employment in the years ahead. Family planning programs reduce inequality between women in different socioeconomic groups. Unintended childbearing is most common among poor, rural, and uneducated women.”
Koogotsitse explained that an important way to remove unmet needs for family planning was to increase the diversity of contraceptive methods. “Some people lose interest in methods of contraceptives if when they go to the clinic for assistance they find only one method of contraception. Giving expanded alternatives to different methods can help to meet some of their needs and increase usage of contraceptives.”