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THE OPEN HAVERSACK: Adolescent pregnancy

Rhonda Blackman

THE OPEN HAVERSACK: Adolescent pregnancy

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Adolescent pregnancy is nothing new, for it occurred before our mothers’ and grandmothers’ time. However, with education and the availability of contraceptives, the frequency has diminished quite a bit.
A few days ago I attended the launch of the State Of The World Population Report 2013 which focused on Motherhood In Children: Facing The Challenge Of Adolescent Pregnancy. On hearing the stories of a few teen mums I felt motivated to address the issue of teenage pregnancy.
Adolescent pregnancy is not common to one country alone; it is a global issue that needs to be addressed.
Many of our teenagers are having their sexual debut before the age of 14 and are having multiple sexual partners. What is sad about this is that they are putting their lives at risk not only in terms of becoming pregnant, but also of contracting a sexually transmitted disease.
Becoming pregnant is definitely not a deliberate choice by these children, but sometimes “an absence of choices and circumstances beyond their control”. Many of them are not strong enough to withstand the pressures from their peers, partners, families or society and end up in those situations. Some may even be victims of sexual violence or coercion.
Whatever the circumstance, it must be understood that a pregnancy has a serious impact on and implications for these young girls’ lives. It has lasting consequences for their health, education and employment opportunities. It undermines their right to education as many “drop out” of school and due to embarrassment or otherwise, never continue to develop themselves. The question then might be asked: are we going to allow our teenaged girls who are sexually active, open access to contraception?
Many of these young girls come to a realization too late, after they are left to raise a baby with little support from family or friends. They realize that being a mother is harder than it looks.
Here is how we as a society can help with the reduction of adolescent pregnancy.
• Empower our girls to make the correct decisions in life. Make family life education a must in all schools, ensuring that it covers sexual and reproductive health. Intervene early with preventative methods, but be strategic, ensuring that the information given is age appropriate. Make the curriculum relevant to the changing society.
• Seek out the sexual predators and bring them to justice. Remember that under the Convention On The Rights Of The Child, anyone under 18 is considered a child.
• Engage and educate our boys. This is essential so that they can understand their gender role and sexuality and allow them to reflect and question “predominant norms around masculinity and femininity”. Teach them responsibility.
In the report it was stated that we need a transformational shift from intervention to preventing pregnancy to a new paradigm that targets the circumstances, conditions, norms, values and structural forces that perpetuate adolescent pregnancies on the one hand, and that isolate and marginalize pregnant girls on the other.
Let’s work together as we face the challenge of adolescent pregnancy.
 Rhonda A. Blackman is an educator, national development scholar and former president of the Early Childhood Association of Barbados Inc.