By ‘Majirata Latela
At the tender age of 15, ‘Mamotebang Ntai is aware of child marriage, teenage pregnancy and all kinds of abuses on the youth.
These have triggered her to start an awareness campaign among her siblings and friends about the growing incidents which are likely to harm their future.
She grew up in the community where some of the children are abandoned by some parents who are migrating to work in South Africa’s Eastern Cape farms. Mamotebang is determined to alert her friends are not caught up in early child pregnancy and be married at young age.
Born and bred in Tiping village, in the Quthing district, Mamotebang says she has realised that her friend is abused by her parents. The friend’s parents left her in the care of a 92-year-old grandmother who struggles to care for her and her school needs.
“I know that my friend was neglected by her parents who later on separated. That left her in the custody of the grandmother who is old. She is forced to go house to house to beg for food when her grandmother cannot afford to buy food. Currently, she does not have shoes to wear.
“She is struggling and that doesn’t sit well with me. I wish I could help because when we go to school, others scorn her and that pains me. Her father has once visited her and wanted to take her with him but her mother refused. Subsequently, the same mother abandoned her to seek employ in the farms.
“I do not like to see her struggling like that. This is why I thought I should help her look for her father on social media so that he can come and take her in the absence of her mother,” Mamotebang said worriedly.
Mamotebang says during school holidays she attends workshops offered by World Vision Lesotho with her age mates. During the workshops they are empowered about knowledge on the impacts of child pregnancy and early child marriages.
At school, they are taught Life Skills This has enabled her and others to be knowledgeable about the problems that accompany child pregnancy and to develop skills to avoid falling into the unbecoming situation.
She thinks that though the children are constantly advised to heed their parents’ advice, they should desist from doing so on acts that may put their livers in danger
“Our parents sometimes make us do things that will affect our future negatively. For example, some parents force their children into marriages for their own material benefit. If our parents do not make the right choices for us, we have a right to say no. Some parents force their children to sleep with older men so that they can get money. As children we should not agree to that.
“On the other hand, it is wrong as children to get involved in sexual activities at a young age. If we get pregnant we may die while giving birth. At my age, I have been taught that my body is not developed enough to carry a baby for nine months as well as endure the labour pains.
“When I get the chance I always make it a point to advise my age mates to listen to their parents when reprimanded as such acts may jeopardise their future. I also show them that we should make it a point not to start dating at a very young age because that is where we sometimes start being sexually active. We should also know what we want in life and build self-esteem because that helps us not to easily be let astray by our peers,” she says.
She further advises other youngsters to avoid alcohol and drugs as she says their internal organs will get damaged from such use. She advises the youth to focus mainly on going to school and be educated and help their struggling parents. She believes the youth have the chance to change their families’ poverty situations.
‘Mamotebang draws courage to speak to other youth especially girls. She strongly advises the youth to make right choices in order to build on the right path towards the future.
On the one hand, World Vision Lesotho’s child trainer, Motlatsi Taaka. told the publication that the organisation has programmes that are meant for vulnerable children and communities. The programmes, he said, are meant to empower a girl child while at the same time teaching her life skills.
“We also teach them about all forms of abuse so that they can be able to know when they are abused. We teach them about their rights and responsibilities.
“We have initiatives under advocacy in all the districts of Lesotho. In Mokotjomela ADP in Quthing, we have a programme of child protection advocacy whereby we teach these kids about life skills and child protection laws,” Taaka said.
He said the religious organisation has age appropriate programmes meant for girls from the ages of 12 to 18. He said World Vision has recently realised that it still needed to involve youth from the age above 18. These, he added, also required to be equipped with life skills so as to avoid unnecessary marriages.
He warned that girls who are studying in tertiary schools should first complete their learning before they opt to be pregnant.