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Teenage Mother’s Victory

At the age of 18, Priscilla Mokwala found herself pregnant, an experience that brought both challenges and unexpected support. “I faced discrimination at school and home.” Priscilla recalls.  

Everyone turned their back on me after finding out I was pregnant. It was a tough time, especially as my tummy grew. I used to wear big jerseys even when it was hot, trying to hide it.” 

Everything changed when Priscilla informed her baby’s father about the pregnancy. “He accepted the child and told his parents,” she says. “His parents then came to my home to inform my father and stepmother, but instead of support, I was chased out of the house.” Priscilla moved in with her baby’s father, facing the daily embarrassment of attending school while visibly pregnant. 

Her father’s words were harsh, questioning how she felt walking around pregnant in a uniform that, to him, broadcast that she had unprotected sex. Although Priscilla was facing hardship with her parents, she had the support of her baby’s father, who encouraged her to persevere. “He said it’s not over until I give up and quit school. I still remember passing grade 11 and having a baby girl. My teacher was happy and said I managed to ‘beat two birds with one stone’.” 

Priscilla’s perseverance continued, and she successfully completed her matriculation. However, the next challenge was finding further education or employment. “I met Ausi Lebo, who introduced me to Childline,” Priscilla explains. “This opportunity allowed me to grow and meet other teenage mothers like myself. It was a turning point, making me realise I’m not alone in this journey.” 

By the age of 19, almost one in three young women have begun childbearing in South Africa. Priscilla was part of NACOSA’s adolescent and youth programme, funded by the Global Fund, which reaches over 200,000 young people across the country. Two percent of young women aged under 19 on this programme are currently pregnant and four percent say they have ever been pregnant. 

Priscilla’s story highlights the many factors contributing to teen pregnancy, including poverty, gender-based violence, lack of knowledge and access to contraception, and an unsupportive school environment. Addressing these issues requires a multi-faceted approach involving education, access to services, economic empowerment, legal protections, and parental involvement. 

Priscilla Mokwala

Priscilla Mokwala

Priscilla now advocates for better support for teen parents. “It’s crucial for parents, the government, and other leaders to be aware of the challenges that teen parents face, such as economic instability, lack of support, and difficulty accessing healthcare and education. By providing young parents with resources and support, we can reduce the negative impact of teen pregnancy and promote healthier outcomes for both parents and children.” 

As a community, we need to make sure that young women have access to contraceptives, antenatal services, and support post-birth. Empowering young women with education and employment opportunities is essential for creating a more equitable society. “We must actively engage with communities, parents, and schools to encourage open conversations about health and HIV prevention.” Priscilla insists. 

Priscilla’s advice to other teen mothers is; “Seek support. You don’t have to go through this journey alone. Take care of yourself physically and mentally. Be patient and understand it’s okay to make mistakes. Always choose yourself and remember, it’s not over until you give up. Love yourself and your baby, and stay busy with education or work to create a better future.”