When Ntsako Mahlangu, 20, from the rural area of Acornhoek, South Africa, met her 40-year-old boyfriend through mutual friends, it was love at first sight for the new couple. “The sight of him made me go crazy,” she said, with a humble voice. To woo her, he bought her new clothes and also gave her money. In return, she snuck out of her parent’s house though a window to meet with him in a hotel late at night, or sometimes she’d meet up at his friend’s house. Ntsako dreamt of spending the rest of her life with him, but the consequences of her love would leave her pregnant at the age of seventeen.
Ntsako’s boyfriend pressured her into sleeping with him without protection, demanding that she prove her love for him. “I couldn’t afford to let him down, “she explained looking down as though she had lost a penny, not her dignity “I was blinded by his charms.”
Their love affair soon turned into a nightmare. The boyfriend turned into a possessive and controlling lover, accusing her of being the village whore, beating her up with a razor wire and his fists. “He showed me a side of him that made me want to wet my pants [in fear],” she confessed.
Since her boyfriend refused to wear condoms, Ntsako used birth control pills to protect herself from unwanted pregnancy. The pill is 99% effective provided a woman takes it everyday as directed. But Ntsako sometimes forgot to take her pills, and her mistake caused her to fall pregnant.
Ntsako’s story is not unique. According to David Harrison, Chief Executive Officer of LoveLife, South Africa’s largest youth targeted HIV/AIDS campaign; “South Africa has a huge teen pregnancy problem,” one in three girls has had a baby by the age of 20. Even worse, the latest national survey into HIV prevalence recorded that 16 percent of pregnant women under the age of twenty tested positive for HIV.
“Teenage pregnancy is mainly caused by poverty, more especially in rural areas,” explained Zodwa Makhubele, a Social Worker at Acornhoek. “In many cases you find that the parents are not working or simply have passed away. The girls have to take drastic measures by getting involved with older men in order to get money, so that they can be able to buy food to support their siblings. These [measures] usually result in them falling pregnant.”
Scared to tell her family first, Ntsako told broke the news to her boyfriend, but the reaction she got was not what she expected. “He denied that it was his and told me to have an abortion.” Having to kill the little miracle in her womb was never an option: “Abortion is not a child’s play,” she stressed.
She then told her mother about her pregnancy. Her mother’s reaction was more expected; she was very disappointed in Ntsako because she had high hopes and other plans for her daughter. She had already chosen a different man that she hoped for her daughter would marry. “I did not love him, let alone like him,” Ntsako said, about her arranged husband.
Ntsako’s mother threw her out of her home.
She went to stay with relatives for a while, but they later showed resentment towards her.? The relatives were mean to Ntsako and gossiped endlessly about how much food she ate.They even expected Ntsako to do every chore in their home while they watched.
Ntsako decided to beg her mother for forgiveness, and she eventually gave in to her daughter’s plea. But her mother became distant and showed no emotional support. Her mother wanted Ntsako to go live with the man who got her pregnant.
Nine months passed and Ntsako had a baby boy. Her baby’s father came to see his son, begging for forgiveness, and also accepting that the child was indeed his. Ntsako accepted his apology with no hesitations. “I still loved him regardless of his mistakes. I thought he deserved a second chance like very body else,” she added.
However, even though he acted like he cared, he never gave her money to support their child. Every time she asked for cash, he made excuses. The boyfriend eventually stopped visiting Ntsako and their son. He has since moved and is seeing another young girl. Today, Ntsako depends on her siblings for support. She finds it hard to care for her son without the help of her mother and boyfriend. Now the child is three years old and asking questions about his father. “My mistake was having a child,” she confessed. “It’s not an easy path to take alone.”