Students shine light on teen pregnancy issues

Two Avele College students have spoken out about teenage pregnancy in Samoa and the need for Samoan children to depend on their parents' guidance to make decisions. 

The students, Zonna Ofoia and Feagai Aofia, addressed the 84th Extraordinary Session of the Committee on the Rights of the Child on Wednesday. 

The students said that children’s rights in Samoa were respected but respect for their right to education needed to prevail.

The four-day conference was officially opened on Monday, with speakers from civil society groups and regional organisations speaking to the issues that continued to stand in the way of children’s rights in Samoa. 

Ms. Ofoia and Ms. Aofia told the Samoa Observer that one such issue is teenage pregnancy.

They recommended that children listen to their parents and respect their wishes, in order to avoid unforeseen pregnancy. 

“It's the highest issue in Samoa because every year it happens,” said Ms. Aofia.

“Teenagers, like under 15-year-old girls. get pregnant, and that is a problem.

“They are not with their parents and they are making their own decisions and [that’s why] they have these problems. They are not making informed decisions.”

Both students say they have friends who have fallen pregnant at a young age.

Ms. Aofia’s friend dropped out of school after becoming pregnant but returned to school after the baby was born.

Education presents the two most common issues relating to teenage pregnancy in Samoa, the girls said. 

According to one perspective on the matter, children must continue to pursue education regardless of what happens in terms of pregnancy.

“In our time, without education you can't get a job or what you want because education is everything in our life,” said Ms. Ofoia.

But she said another perspective is that young women abandon their educational aspirations after becoming pregnant: “They have a child and they think that's it and they don't need another future so that's why they don't go back to school.”

The students said their advice to peers was that spending more time with their parents and families was paramount.

“Our advice to [teenagers undergoing pregnancy] is to spend time with parents and families,” Ms. Ofoia said. 

“We have the right to make decisions but in our culture we show respect. So we need to let parents give us advice.”

In 2017, a report by the Samoa National Youth Council revealed that young Samoans are becoming sexually active as early as 14 years of age.

It also found evidence that a minority of young people between the ages of 14 to 19 are currently married or in a de facto relationship.

“In addition, it was found that several of the identified young women from this group had two to three children by the time they were 17 or 19,” the report read.

“It implies that these young women became pregnant as early as 14 years old and the seriousness of such an inference means that despite existing services and legislation there are gaps and challenges that such mechanisms have not addressed adequately.

“Given that the current Crimes Act 2013 penalises sexual conduct with a young person below the age of 16, this is a cause for concern and requires further investigation by relevant authorities.”

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