Uncensored initiation ceremony teachings blamed for teen pregnancies

A community based organisation implementing sexual-reproductive health rights activities in the Eastern Province has said the uncensored teaching during cultural practices such as Chinamwali (initiation ceremony) is contributing to high cases of teen pregnancies. 

Chisomo Community Programme Director, Annie Chiseni, said there is need for traditional leaders to regulate the conduct of traditional counsellors, also known as Alangizi, during Chinamwali, a cultural practice where girls who come of age are put into isolation and taught skills of womanhood, including the bedroom dance.

She said regulating counsellors will ensure that young girls are not exposed to teachings that entice them to start experimenting with sex.

ZANIS reports that Ms. Chiseni was speaking in Kasenengwa when she visited the Youth Friendly Space under the Break Free project being implemented by her organisation.

She said the project aims at ending child marriages and early pregnancies, as well as reducing the number of girls droping out of school

She said the project being implemented in partnership with Sexual-Reproductive Reproductive Health Rights Africa Trust (SAT) Zambia, ensures that the girls that drop out of school are taken back to continue with their education. 

“The province has been recording high cases of early pregnancies and it has been established that practices like Chinamwali are contributing factors. And because some of these girls are not fully developed to undergo childbirth, we are seeing maternal mortality increasing,” she explained. 

Ms. Chiseni noted that working with stakeholders such as traditional leaders can help achieve the required results in the fight against early pregnancies. 

Meanwhile, peer educators under the project said they are facing resistance from young people in the execution of their outreach programmes. 

Ketty Sakala, who is stationed at Kwenje Rural Health Centre, said young girls prefer attending traditional events and practices such as Chinamwali at the expense of being engaged in sexual reproductive health rights services. 

“If you were to go where these activities are happening right now, you will find a lot of young girls. But when we call them at the youth-friendly corner, they do not show up,” she said.

Ms. Sakala believes that the teachings of traditional counsellors entice young girls to attend these initiation sessions so that they go back to their villages and indulge in sexual activities. 

“The bad part is they do not teach them about protecting themselves, and the results are teen pregnancies, dropping out of school and contracting sexually transmitted diseases,” she said.