By Nomfundo Xulu-Lentsoane 

  • Khethelo Mbokazi’s dreams of becoming a lawyer were halted by pregnancy at 17, attributing it partly to peer pressure.
  • Working at Umzansi Youth in Business (UYB) NPO, Khethelo aids with CV drafting and computer skills in her community.
  • Community dialogues by the Department of Social Development and UYB highlight concerns about teenage pregnancy’s impact on youth unemployment.

Pull Quote: “He denied being the father of the baby and said I must have had sex with someone else…”

Nineteen-year-old Khethelo Mbokazi, from Zayeka in Sweetwaters (KwaZulu-Natal), says she had high hopes of becoming a lawyer, but this was put to a halt when she fell pregnant in 2021 at the age of 17 during grade 11. She partially blames this on peer pressure.

“I was friends with the wrong crowd who enjoyed partying and drinking. I fortunately do not drink but would still hang out with my friends,” says the motivational speaker who began this journey after having her daughter in February 2022. “I continued with school and passed matric with a Bachelor’s Degree pass,” she says.

She is currently one of the 32 employees at the Umzansi Youth in Business (UYB) non-profit organisation (NPO) based in uMgungundlovu, KwaZulu-Natal. This NPO, which is partly funded by the Department of Social Development, was officially launched in 2020. Some of the services provided include programmes in social behavioural change and workshops specifically targeted at the youth, which seek to reignite the importance of the department’s programmes, including Ke Moja, Yolo, and ChommY.

As an additional benefit, UYB offers skills development for the municipality and operates a resource centre where the community can utilise computers and books to empower themselves. This is where Khethelo works. “I assist with drafting CVs and teaching computer proficiency,” she says, adding that as a young person who also once needed these skills, it feels good to give back to her community. This particularly became critical when she became a mother and realised that she would have to work to fend for her child. 

Initially, when Khethelo discovered her pregnancy during the second month, she confided in her then ex-boyfriend, who offered no support. “He denied paternity and accused me of being unfaithful. We had already ended our relationship by then,” she recounts.

She then turned to her friends who were empathetic at first but later changed their tune. “I realised then that they were not true friends. I felt alone and was very sad about the people I trusted the most. I even stopped eating,” she explains. 

When she was four months pregnant, she confided in her mother’s best friend because her stomach was starting to show. “I was asking her to please tell my mother. I was extremely scared for many reasons but mainly because we were already struggling at home and sometimes even went without food. I felt like an extreme failure and even considered terminating the pregnancy, but it was too late,” she reveals. 

When her mother found out, she remained silent towards Khethelo, but the atmosphere at home turned sour. “I received the silent treatment for a while. When she had come to terms with my situation, she confronted me, understandably distraught, especially because the father was nowhere to be found. However, she eventually empathised, considering she too was a teenage mother; she had me when she was 18.

“I am her first-born daughter and I have a little brother whom I also felt I had disappointed because I was supposed to be a role model to him, but all is well now and my grandmother is very helpful and receives the SASSA Child Support Grant for my little girl,” she concludes after making the bold statement of regretting the fact that she fell pregnant at such a tender age but that her daughter propels her to reach higher heights. 

The Department of Social Development, in collaboration with UYB, conducts community dialogues in KwaZulu-Natal to address social issues and foster community-led solutions for development. Teenage pregnancy emerged as a significant concern in two dialogues, reflecting its impact on rising unemployment rates in the country.

“Most young girls who fall pregnant in their teens hardly return to school as they have to raise their babies especially where there is no family or community support,” says Nduduzo Mbongeni Zuma, the founder of UYB. “Our purpose is to guide the youth on how to be self-sustainable. We help them with basic computer skills and to be business-minded to curb the scourge of unemployment. Finding employment is tough so the youth should start their businesses – especially those who find themselves being parents at a young age. Khethelo is just one of thousands of cases here,” he concludes.

Picture by Pricilla Seamelando

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