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NHK Visit for making a documentary related to the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) 25, which features early and unintended pregnancy in Gabon

From October 27th to 31st, the Chief of NHK (Japan Broadcasting Corporation) Johannesburg Office, Mr. Shoichiro BEPPU visited Libreville to make a documentary related to Nairobi Summit on the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD25) held from November 12th to 14th, 2019, whose theme was Accelerating the promise.

This documentary was broadcast in Japan from November 12th to 13th, 2019. The contents are as follows:

This documentary features the current situation in Gabon, where early and unintended pregnancy is a problem because of lack of knowledge about how to prevent them.

Gabon is an oil-producing country with a relatively high per capita income. However, due to lack of knowledge about sex and the lack of contraceptives, many adolescents experience unintended pregnancy. According to the 2012 Demographic and Health Survey, 28% of girls aged between 15 years old and 19 years old had a fertile life (23% have at least one child, 5% were pregnant for the first time).

Even in a general health center we visited, there were many young women. When we interviewed a woman waiting for a medical examination, she said, “I am 17 years old. My baby is 2 months old, and he is my second child.”

We also visited the home of a 17 year old girl ”A” who gave birth to the first child at the age of 16 when she was in high school, and gave birth to the second child six months ago. Because of this situation, she had to leave high school. She said, ” I found out that I was pregnant and felt bad. I didn’t expect to get pregnant at age 16.” Her mother said, ” She concealed her pregnancy, but I realized her belly was getting bigger. There is no way such a young child can raise a baby.”

The girl “A” regrets that at that time she did not have enough knowledge of contraceptive methods and was not aware of thinking of the responsibility to raise a baby. She has to find a job while raising her two babies and is worried about the future. She also said,” What I want to say to other girls is that it's not good to have a baby while you are young.”

In fact, as the induced abortion is illegal in Gabon, some girls even try to abort themselves, and die unfortunately.

When this man “B” was 17 years old, his girlfriend got pregnant. However, she believed in the wrong information from friends and the Internet, so she died after taking a large amount of drugs to abort her unwanted pregnancy. He said,”Getting pregnant at her age was,…, a failure for her.”

We also visited woman “C”, who lost her niece due to an illegal abortion three months ago. She showed the branch of cassava. Her niece was raped by her relatives, became pregnant, and tried to abort using a branch without being confided, but died of massive bleeding.

In Gabon, one in three maternal deaths is a teenage girl. Many cases are thought to be caused by dangerous and illegal abortions. So the government is concerned about this situation.

Mrs. MEBALEY who is the director general of the School and Normal Directorate (DGESN) of the Ministry of National Education said,” The unintended pregnancy is a major issue for this country. There is a lot of misinformation on the Internet. So this time, it is important to communicate correct knowledge to adolescents.”

As a countermeasure, ministries have started a program to promote comprehensive sexual education into pilot schools with the support of UNFPA.

At the elementary school we visited, there was a class on the risks of sex without the use of contraceptives. One girl student said, “I learned that I absolutely have to use contraceptives when having sex.” The teacher said, “The knowledge is essential for children to act responsibly”

 Mrs. Mebaley, director general of DGESN

In response to a question from the journalist, Mr. BEPPU said that there was a harsh view of girls who had unwanted pregnancy, and that the girls themselves had a strong “shame” consciousness. Therefore, the whole society needs to tackle this problem. In particular, it is required to take measures at the government level.”

Finally, Mr. Keita OHASHI, the Representative of UNFPA Gabon said, “This is a human rights issue, not just for women. It is important for the government to support sexual and reproductive health rights for adolescents.”