The negative impacts of teenage child bearing in Malawi
Statistics show that rates of teenage child bearing in Malawi has remained high for the past 24 years. From the years 1992 to 2004, the percent of girls between the ages of 15 to 19 who had given birth stayed relatively the same, ranging between 33% and 35%. Despite a drop in 2010 to 25.6%, the prevalence of teenage child bearing has since increased to 29% in 2015 (National Statistical Office, 2015).
Teenage childbearing has multiple negative impacts on girls and their families. These include:
- Poor education: low education attainment among women
Research has found that teenage childbearing is one factor that may contribute to poorer educational outcomes for girls: when a girls leaves school due to a pregnancy, she is unlikely to return (Chalasani, Kelly, Mensch, & Soler-Hampejsek, 2012). While girls’ primary school enrollment is high (94%), 26% of girls do not make it to the final class of their primary education. In addition, while the transition rate to secondary school is 61%, only 18% of girls are able to effectively attend classes at secondary school (National Statistical Office, 2014).
Poor health: malnutrition, high infant and maternal mortality and increased risk of HIV
Teenage childbearing has a negative bearing on the health of girls and their new born babies. Teenage mothers and their children are more likely to die of maternal and infant complications compared to those that bear children after the age of 19 (Chandra-Mouli, Camacho, & Michaud, 2013). If the infants survive, they are likely to be stunted or underweight. Teenage mothers are also at increased risk of contracting HIV due in part to a lack of knowledge on preventive measures (National Statistical Office, 2015).
- Poverty: low income of women
Another factor connected to teenage child bearing is poverty. The World Bank 2011 Report shows that 53% of the poorest women had started bearing children before the age of 18 (The World Bank, 2011).
Government efforts to address teenage childbearing in Malawi
The Government of Malawi criminalized child marriage in 2015 in part due to the recognition ofthe negative impact this has on girls’ educational outcomes. Under the Marriage, Divorce and Family Relations Act (Marriage Act) of 2015, marriage with someone under the age of 18 is illegal. According to the Government of Malawi, the law aims to enhance the programmes and interventions that promote girl’s education while acting on challenges that may lead to teenage child bearing (The Government of Malawi, 2015).
Chalasani, S., Kelly, C. A., Mensch, B. S., & Soler-Hampejsek, E. (2012), Adolescent pregnancy and education trajectories in Malawi
Chandra-Mouli, V., Camacho, A. V., & Michaud, P.-A. P.-A. (2013), WHO guidelines on preventing early pregnancy and poor reproductive outcomes among adolescents in developing countries, The Journal of Adolescent Health : Official Publication of the Society for Adolescent Medicine, 52(5), 517–522, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jadohealth.2013.03.002
National Statistical Office. (2014), Malawi MDG Endline Survey 2014, Key Findings. Zomba, Malawi: National Statistical Office, http://www.nsomalawi.mw/latest-publications/mdg-endline-survey-2014.html
National Statistical Office. (2015), Demographic and Health Survey Key Indicators, Statewide Agricultural Land Use Baseline 2015, 1, 55, https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781107415324.004
The Government of Malawi (2015), Marriage,Divorce and Family Relations Act No.4, Pub. L. No. 4, Lilongwe
The World Bank. (2011), Reproductive Health at a Glance Malawi, (http://www wds.worldbank.org/external/default/WDSContentServer/WDSP/IB/2011/07/27/000386194_20110727013050/Rendered/PDF/629380BRIEF0Ma0BOX0361514B00PUBLIC0.pdf