Teen pregnancy epidemic feeds Mozambique’s population boom

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A mozambican nurse explains contraception methods and sexual education during an health point gathering organised by the United Nations Fund for Population activities in partnership with the Mozambican Health Department to address early Motherhood and child marriage on July 4, 2018 in Massininca on the outskirts of Nacala, Nampula Province, Mozambique. (AFP)
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Mozambican women and their children leave Murrupelane Maternity ward on July 5, 2018 in Nacala, Nampula Province, Mozambique. (AFP)
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Mozambican women and expecting mothers await to receive medical care at the Murrupelane Maternity ward on July 5, 2018 in Nacala, Nampula Province, Mozambique. (AFP)
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A local resident holds her child as a mozambican nurse explains contraception methods and sexual education during an health point gathering organised by the United Nations Fund for Population activities in partnership with the Mozambican Health Department to address early Motherhood and child marriage on July 4, 2018 in Massininca on the outskirts of Nacala, Nampula Province, Mozambique. (AFP)
Updated 13 August 2018
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Teen pregnancy epidemic feeds Mozambique’s population boom

  • Around half of Mozambique’s women — 48.2 percent — marry before they turn 18, according to UN children’s agency UNICEF
  • During ceremonies, “boys aged eight to 12 learn to punish girls by forcing them into sex”

MURRUPELANE, Mozambique: In the tiny maternity ward in Murrupelane, two 16-year-old mothers breast-feed their babies, both born that morning.
Mozambique’s child marriage and teen pregnancy rates are among the highest in the world, a driving factor in the population explosion in this poverty-plagued southern African nation.
After emerging from a brutal war in 1992, the former Portuguese colony saw its population swell 40 percent in the two decades to 2017, reaching 29 million today.
“My parents really wanted me to get married,” says Julia Afonso, one of the girls who has just given birth in Murrupelane, a village in the north.
In a tiny voice, she says her family received 1,500 meticals ($21, 22 euros) as a dowry.
Around half of Mozambique’s women — 48.2 percent — marry before they turn 18, according to UN children’s agency UNICEF.
Of girls aged between 15 and 19, 46.4 percent are either pregnant or have already become mothers.
These early marriages and pregnancies “are impoverishing the community,” says Murrupelane village chief Wazir Abacar.
Young parents “cannot feed their children, and the mums leave school,” he said. As a result, 58 percent of Mozambican women are illiterate.

Ema Nelmane, now 13, gave into the advances of a man she met in the market who offered her 200 meticals (three euros) for her virginity.
“She saw a chance to get the same shoes her friends were wearing,” her grandmother said, by way of explanation.
When she fell pregnant, Ema was flabbergasted.
“I didn’t know you could get pregnant by making love,” she said, breast-feeding seven-month-old Ismail in the clay yard outside her grandmother’s home.
Ema was plunged prematurely into the world of adults.
“I can’t go out and play with my friends anymore,” she said.
As in other developing countries, teenagers in Mozambique often fall pregnant “through lack of education,” said demographer Carlos Arnaldo.
“Parents see in these births a guarantee that they’ll be looked after when they get old.”
Until recently, Mozambique’s government did little to tackle demographic problems.
But the mounting costs of the population boom have forced a change of thinking.

“The economic consequences for the government are that it has to build hospitals and schools,” said Pascoa Wate, head of maternal and child health at the health ministry.
“In spite of government spending, people don’t have access to them.”
In a bid to curb the population explosion, Mozambique’s government is in the process of changing the law to allow marriage only at 18, rather than at 16 with parental consent.
“We know that the practice of early marriage is rooted in deeply-seated cultural values and social norms that prioritize fertility,” said Youth Minister Nyeleti Mondlane.
With UN support, Mozambique has also been waging a contraception awareness campaign since 2016.
Only a quarter of women currently have access to contraception, according to a national health survey.
In the shadow of a mango tree in the northern village of Namissica, a dozen women crowd around a table to watch a nurse demonstrate how to use different contraception, with the help of a wooden model penis and a plastic vagina.
If their husbands are “not cooperative,” nurse Fatima da Silva Cobre advises women to opt for a birth control implant.
“He won’t know you’re using it,” she says.
The women ask anxious questions: could the implant fall out? Won’t it make them infertile?
One by one, the nurse debunks the myths.

Reining in the population boom also depends heavily on male education in a country where “it’s they who dictate sexuality to girls,” said Gilberto Macuacua Harilal.
A crusader against underage pregnancies, Macuacua uses his weekly television show “Man To Man” to denounce churches that defend marriage under 18, as well as traditional initiation rites, common in Mozambique.
During such ceremonies, “boys aged eight to 12 learn to punish girls by forcing them into sex,” he said.
Slowly, the message is starting to get through.
Jaoa Carlos Singano, a village chief in the northern Rapale district, said that for a year “we’ve been trying to convince officials who carry out the initiation rites to be careful in the instructions they give boys.”
But the need for change is urgent.
At current rates, the population is set to double in the next 25 years.
“It is a race against time,” says Mondlane.


Game of Thrones reaches its end, with one or two shocks left

Updated 20 May 2019
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Game of Thrones reaches its end, with one or two shocks left

  • The last episode of the medieval fantasy based on the novels of George R.R. Martin ran roughly an hour and 20 minutes
  • The series had become the cornerstone of HBO’s primetime offerings, but its final season was also its most divisive

Warning: This story contains spoilers for the final episode of “Game of Thrones.”
After eight seasons and 73 episodes, HBO’s long-running smash series, “Game of Thrones,” wrapped up on Sunday, with one more shocking demise and an unlikely character named as king.
The last episode of the medieval fantasy based on the novels of George R.R. Martin ran roughly an hour and 20 minutes to conclude the storyline of more than a dozen characters and intertwining plots.
The fierce competition for the fictional Iron Throne — the seat for the show’s ruler, made of hundreds of swords — ended with a death and an unexpected choice to rule the fictional kingdom of Westeros.
The series had become the cornerstone of HBO’s primetime offerings, but its final season was also its most divisive, with both fans and critics finding specific plot twists, particularly the handling of one primary character, troubling.
HBO says the record-breaking final season drew 43 million viewers on average for each episode in the United States alone, an increase of 10 million over Season 7 in 2017.
Most notable in fans’ criticism was the malevolent turn by Emilia Clarke’s Daenerys Targaryen, the “Dragon Queen,” who used her dragon to lay waste to the show’s fictional capital after her enemies had surrendered.
The move angered fans, as the episode, titled “The Bells,” now garners the weakest ratings of all episodes in the eight-season run on Rottentomatoes.com, which aggregates critics’ reviews.
Brutal acts by Clarke’s character in previous seasons were similar to those of other leaders, but many viewers saw the decision to kill tens of thousands of innocent people as too drastic, based on her previous actions.
The final episode features her death at the hands of Jon Snow, her lover (and nephew, among numerous incestuous relationships portrayed), played by Kit Harington, who kills her, fearing her tyranny merely mirrors that of predecessors.
Her last living dragon then burns the Iron Throne, melting it down with his fiery breath.
Without a ruler, numerous members of the show’s noble houses eventually make an unexpected choice of king, settling on Brandon Stark, played by Isaac Hempstead Wright.
In the premiere episode in 2011, Brandon was pushed from a high tower, crippling him, but awakening mystical powers that eventually allowed him to see the past and the future.
Some critics viewed the Sunday episode’s choice as odd, since Stark’s abilities implied he foresaw the events, including the deaths of thousands, that would leave him ruler.
“He’s got the whole history of Westeros stockpiled in his head, so how is he going to be able to concentrate on running a kingdom?” wrote Rebecca Patton on Bustle.com.
From its ragged beginnings — its original pilot was never aired, instead undergoing substantial re-shoots and recasting of several characters — the series became a cultural phenomenon.
Its budgets grew, with the last season’s cost running as high as $15 million per episode, Variety says. It also won numerous primetime television Emmy Awards, including three for “Best Drama.”
It became known for unexpected, nerve-wracking moments, including the first season’s death of Eddard Stark, the nobleman played by Sean Bean, highlighted in a marketing campaign, and Season 3’s “Red Wedding,” a massacre in fictional wars that author Martin based on medieval Scottish history.
HBO, owned by AT&T’s WarnerMedia, is already planning a prequel series, set thousands of years earlier, while creators Dan Weiss and David Benioff are scheduled to make the next series of “Star Wars” films.