«Teenagers should know how to prevent an unintended pregnancy»
Nadia is a young girl who gave birth to a child out of wedlock. The family wanted her to have an abortion, so Nadia chose to settle in “Mother’s House” in Nur-Sultan.
Nadia (the name has been changed), 20 years old: “When I realized that I was pregnant, I told my family that I would have an abortion, as they wanted. I ended up not coming back to my own village for five months. There it is inconceivable that a woman would have a baby without a husband."
Mother’s House is a social welfare institution where women whose families turned away from them can live while they are unable to provide for themselves and their child.
Unfortunately, Nadia's story is familiar to Kazakhstan’s many young girls who became pregnant outside of marriage. The adolescent birth rate is about 25 births for every 1,000 girls aged 15 to 19 years. The number of teenage pregnancies is even higher.
Watch the videо of psychotherapist Zhibek Zholdasova, where she talks about the issues of fertility in Kazakhstan and the psychological state of citizens.
Nadia: “I started dating a guy three years ago, when I was 17 and he was 20. A few months after that, my mother passed away and I found support in him at that difficult time. We helped each other: when he moved to Astana, he did not have a stable income and I helped him financially. Soon things went well for him, but as soon as he found out that I was pregnant, he left and married another girl."
Nadia also has a brother and two sisters. Her father was rarely present in her life, but he regularly sent money to support.
Nadia: “I’m sure if my mother was alive, I wouldn’t be here. She simply wouldn't allow it. I am happy that I have a daughter, I have someone to come to, smell my baby and feed her. I don’t have any regrets that I’ve chosen to give birth."
Nadia's brother is 14 years older than her. He doesn't want to even hear about his sister.
Nadia: “To him, I am a person who’d brought dishonor upon the family. After all, I come from a small village near Astana, 40-minute drive from the city center. There, rumors spread very quickly."
— What could have helped you avoid such a situation?
— When I was a teenager, many of my classmates had already had sex. They were just kids, only 15 or 16 years old. In retrospect, now I understand that teenagers just don’t know any better, they may be making mistakes that they will later regret.”
— What advice can you give to others?
— I think parents should talk to their children about sex. I believe that in biology lessons, children should learn about their bodies. Schools should provide for extracurricular activities and conversations with psychologists, if needed. In addition, boys and girls must share responsibility for the consequences of unprotected sex. Currently, girls are paying a higher price.
Contrary to popular belief, comprehensive and age-appropriate sexuality education that starts in schools does not lead to teenagers having earlier sex. Test-runs of UNFPA-developed sexuality education course in various regions of Kazakhstan has shown that teenagers who had taken the course tend to postpone their first sex, are equipped with better knowledge about sexually-transmitted infections, know how to resist pressure and cultivate other positive habits.
Dina Teltayeva, UNFPA Public Relations Specialist in Kazakhstan: “When a young girl has an unplanned pregnancy or a young guy contracts a sexually-transmitted infection, it means that adults have failed these teenagers. They are basically children who, if they could, would have loved to turn to adults for advice and help. Comprehensive sexuality education teaches some of the most important skills, such as how to avoid a pregnancy until you’re ready; how to protect yourself from sexually transmitted infections, including HIV; how to recognize and know how to respond to abuse; how to enjoy healthy and equal relationships; how to be resilient during stress and realize your full potential and many other things.”
Recent surveys conducted by UNFPA have shown that around a third of teenagers in Kazakhstan are sexually active. 14.8% of adolescents who had indicated being sexually active said that they’d had at least one symptom of a sexually transmitted infection over the past year. However, over 60% of them hadn’t sought any medical help to have their infections treated. 22% of girls who said that they had been sexually active had an abortion.
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Another study shows that there is a fairly large group of adolescents in Kazakhstan aged 15-19 who would like to learn more about contraception to avoid an unplanned pregnancy. They say they would like to learn about ways to maintain their reproductive health.
Anonymous teenager: “Why are we studying geometry, algebra and other subjects, while ignoring psychology and family planning? It could give us more knowledge about real life. "
Nadia: “I want to be with my daughter as long as possible. I don't know how long I can stay at Mother’s House. The father of my child wants to reconnect , but I want to close this chapter of my life and move on. I know the importance of a father's love, which my daughter won’t get, so I will do everything to fill that void."
Naturally, Nadia's life is now driven by the needs of her child, but through partnership with the various companies Mother’s House helped Nadia find an office job in a construction company in Astana.
Nadia: “I hope that I'll have an opportunity to use the knowledge I got in college in the hospitality business. And I hope it will help me provide for myself and my daughter."