News

Nadya’s story: “Teenagers should be equipped with information on how to prevent an unintended pregnancy”

26 November 2019

“When they first noticed I was pregnant, I said to my family that I would have an abortion, just like they wanted me to…” said Nadya[1]. “Instead, I decided to keep the baby and didn’t go to my home village for about five months. Having a baby in a village for a woman without a husband is unthinkable, you know it yourself,” says Nadya, 20, a new resident in Nur-Sultan’s Dom Mamy (“Mother’s Home”). “Mother’s Home” is a charitable social institution where women rejected by their families due to a pregnancy or otherwise can live until they can support themselves and their child.

Nadya’s story is sadly familiar to many young girls in Kazakhstan who became pregnant out of wedlock. Adolescent birth rate is about 25 births per 1,000 girls aged 15-19, with many more getting pregnant.

“I started dating a guy three years ago, when I was 17. A few months after we started dating my mum died. He was in his early 20s and I found support in him during that difficult time. He was there for me and I was there for him, especially when he moved to Astana and didn’t have a stable income. I provided for him. I guess things started to change for the better for him after a while. Then, as soon as he found out that I was pregnant, he left and married another girl,” said Nadya.

Nadya has four siblings. Her father wasn’t around most of her life, although he used to send money to support his big family.

“I’m sure that if my mum hadn’t passed away, I wouldn’t have been here,” Nadya says. “She wouldn’t have allowed this to happen,” says Nadya. “I am very happy I have a daughter now, I have someone to go to, smell my little baby and feed her. I don’t have any regrets that I’ve chosen to give birth.”

Nadya’s eldest brother, 34, doesn’t want to hear about his sister. “To him I am just a person who’d brought dishonor upon the family. I come from a small village near Nur-Sultan. It’s about 40-minute drive from downtown. Rumours spread very quickly.”

Was there anything that could have helped her avoid this situation?

“When I was a teenager in my class a lot of students had already had sex. They were just kids, only 15 or 16 years old. In retrospect, now I understand that teenagers just don’t know any better, they may be making mistakes that they will later regret.”

What would be Nadya’s advice for others to avoid making such a difficult choice at a young age?

“I think that parents should talk to their children about sexuality. I think that in biology classes children should learn about their bodies. I also think that there should be special extra-curricular school activities and talks with psychologists, if needed. Besides, boys and girls should share the responsibility for the consequences of unprotected sex. Currently, girls are paying a higher price.”

Timely and age-appropriate information saves lives

Contrary to popular belief, comprehensive and age-appropriate sexuality education that starts in schools does not lead to teenagers having earlier sex. Test-runs of UNFPA-developed sexuality education course in various regions of Kazakhstan has shown that teenagers who had taken the course tend to postpone their first sex, are equipped with better knowledge about sexually-transmitted infections, know how to resist pressure and cultivate other positive habits.

“When a young girl has an unplanned pregnancy or a young guy contracts a sexually-transmitted infection, it means that adults have failed these teenagers. They are basically children who, if they could, would have loved to turn to adults for advice and help,” says Dina Teltayeva from UNFPA in Kazakhstan. “Comprehensive sexuality education teaches some of the most important skills, such as how to avoid a pregnancy until you’re ready; how to protect yourself from sexually transmitted infections, including HIV; how to recognize and know how to respond to abuse; how to enjoy healthy and equal relationships; how to be resilient during stress and realize your full potential and many other things.”

Recent surveys conducted by UNFPA have shown that around a third of teenagers in Kazakhstan are sexually active. 14.8% of adolescents who had indicated being sexually active said that they’d had at least one symptom of a sexually transmitted infection over the past year. However, over 60% of them hadn’t sought any medical help to have their infections treated. 22% of girls who said that they had been sexually active had an abortion.

Another survey shows that there is a fairly large group of 15-19-year-old teenagers in Kazakhstan who would like to know more about contraception to avoid an unintended pregnancy. These teenagers said that they were mainly interested in ways to protect their reproductive health.

“Why do we study geometry, algebra and loads of other lessons and not psychology and family planning. These could have given us more information that’s more useful for real life,” said one of the surveyed teenagers.

Nadya’s future

Understandably, Nadya’s life is currently centered around the needs of her baby.

“I want to stay with my child for as long as I can. I don’t know how much longer I can live in Mother’s Home,” she says. “The father of my child wants to re-connect but I want to close that chapter of my life and move on. I know how important it is to feel one dad’s love. I know that my daughter will miss out on this, so I’ll do everything I can to fill that void.”

Through its partnership with the various companies Dom Mamy has helped Nadya find an office job at a construction company in Nur-Sultan.

“I hope that I’ll have an opportunity to use the knowledge that I received in my vocational training in hotel management,” says Nadya. “Hopefully it will help me to provide for myself and my daughter.”

 

[1] Upon request from the girl her name has been changed to keep her anonymity