The Crisis Afflicting Kazakhstan’s Youth
Earlier this year, according to a local news site [link in Russian] in Kazakhstan, a teenage girl in a rural area gave birth to a child. The baby weighed about nine pounds; its mother was 13 and in seventh grade. Hers was one of the roughly 6,000 to 10,000 teenage births registered in Kazakhstan each year. And if her story is like that of many of these girls, she will end up giving up her education and future employment prospects—and marrying the child’s father instead.
As those figures show, this problem is hardly exclusive to rural parts of Kazakhstan. In fact, according to a 2016 report from the United Nations Fund for Population Activities, the birth rate in Kazakhstan for girls between 15 and 19 years of age was 28 per 1,000. In the countries of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, by comparison, the rate is fewer than five per 1,000. Given that fewer than three out of 10 sexually active 15–19 year-olds in Kazakhstan use contraception, these numbers are not a surprise.
They are, however, indicative of a crisis. As has been shown in countless studies, low rates of contraceptive use leads to teenage pregnancies, early marriages, abortions, sexually transmitted diseases, and higher rates of fatality for both mothers and their children. In the interest of confronting these social ills—and preventing an unknown number of future tragedies—we decided to conduct a study to answer a simple question: Why do so many young people in Kazakhstan know so little about reproductive health?