Seduced by the promise of a plate of steaming hot pap, a teenage girl agreed to have unprotected sex with a stranger. Nine months later, she gave birth to a baby girl.
The girl was only 14 years old when she met her ‘sugar daddy’.
Despite her youthfulness, she was well aware she was opening herself up to the risk of pregnancy, as well as the threat of sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV and AIDS.
However, she was hungry and desperate.
The man, a 35-year-old engaged to be married, promised to take care of her, buy her clothes and make sure she never went hungry under his care.
Salivating for a taste of the food she had long fantasised about from a nearby restaurant but had never been able to afford, she jumped into the man’s car.
They drove to his house and had sex in the absence of his fiancé.
“I was hungry. There was no food at home and I always wished to eat a good meal from the local restaurant. I always saw people eating from there and the food smelt good as well, so I agreed to his advances.After using me, he gave me P25 to go and buy a plate of maize-meal and stew and that was the last time I saw him,” she surmised of the 2017 event that took less than 20 minutes but would change the course of her life forever.
She said during sex, she prayed she would not get pregnant. Sadly, God was not listening.
The youngster was soon to learn she was expecting a baby girl.
“Reality sank in. I was pregnant, doing my Form 1 and I had to drop out from school. I suffered and was helpless because my family is poor. We depend on handouts from government for survival, so having to care for a child was an additional burden to my single mother,” she said.
Fortunately for her, Pearl Day, who had just started Basket of Love, a non-governmental organisation which cares for young mothers in similar situations, took her in when the baby was only three days old.
“She was in a desperate situation, so I had to assist her,” Day explained simply.
Day assisted the now 17-year-old to go back to school and has traced the man, who works in the Safari camp outside town. The Basket of Love is in the process of helping the girl to do DNA tests and “ensure that the man owns up to his responsibilities and pay monthly maintenance for his daughter, who is almost two years old.”
Day ruefully noted that cases such as these are common in Maun. She revealed girls as young as 11 have been made pregnant by older men and then abandoned, left to raise the children on their own.
“We help them cope with their situations so that they are not tempted to indulge in further activities that can ruin their lives, such as unsafe abortions, dumping the babies in the streets and facing imprisonment,” she explained softly, adding, “These girls are used by their uncles, step-fathers, Councillors, Members of Parliament, Dikgosi among others.”
Worryingly, incidents of paedophilia are becoming increasingly common in Maun.
According to Ngamiland tribal administration, cases often go unreported because in many incidents the parents protect the perpetrators.
In fact, the majority of all cases of damages (tshenyo) that come before the tribal administration involve underage girls.
Speaking during a consultative meeting between the men sector and tribal leaders last week, Veleminah Tlhapi of Tribal Administration Records, revealed, “85% of the cases involve minors who were impregnated by older men. Teenage pregnancy is very high in Maun. People who work in Safari camps and rent houses in Maun are the usual culprits. Men who drive big cars use children.”
Tlhapi further noted that in some cases parents leave young girls to take care of their younger siblings and run the household when they are away, working in the safari camps or camping in the delta to harvest tswii.
On average, 47 cases of teenage pregnancies are reported in the Okavango and Ngamiland districts every month. This is cause for real concern to the North West District council, which oversees the area.
In his last full council meeting held in December 2018, the district’s chairperson, Duncan Enga, said, “Teenage pregnancy remains a challenge in the district. A total of 141 cases were recorded by both Ngami and Okavango Sub Districts between the months of July to September this year.”
The district, according to Enga, had 4, 627 needy students, of which 2, 305 were orphans. Above that, another 497 children were classified as vulnerable.