Feature
Director of Field Operations at the Women’s Centre of Jamaica Foundation, Beverley Martin Berry, addressing a recent Jamaica Information Service (JIS) think Tank. The forum was held at the JIS’s Head Office in Kingston.
Photo: Yhomo Hutchinson

Story Highlights

  • The Women’s Centre of Jamaica Foundation (WCJF), has been empowering teenage mothers through its Advancing Secondary, Tertiary Remedial Education for Adolescent Mothers (A-STREAM) Programme.
  • The initiative, which was launched in March 2018, has three main components – mentorship, sponsorship and scholarship.
  • WCJF Director of Field Operations, Beverley Martin Berry tells JIS News that the Foundation is in the business of successfully reintegrating adolescent mothers into the formal school system.

The Women’s Centre of Jamaica Foundation (WCJF), has been empowering teenage mothers through its Advancing Secondary, Tertiary Remedial Education for Adolescent Mothers (A-STREAM) Programme.

The initiative, which was launched in March 2018, has three main components – mentorship, sponsorship and scholarship.

WCJF Director of Field Operations, Beverley Martin Berry tells JIS News that the Foundation is in the business of successfully reintegrating adolescent mothers into the formal school system.

She notes that this requires some level of support as it relates to providing the adolescent mother with the adequate resources to continue her education in the formal school system.

The A-STREAM programme offers $140,000 in tertiary scholarship to adolescent mothers who have matriculated from the WCJF programme. It also provides a $40,000 bursary for adolescent mothers who are reintegrated into the secondary-school system.

Some 40 adolescent mothers have received bursaries to aid with their high-school expenses and three teen mothers have received tertiary scholarships.

“In a case where the adolescent father is still in school and requires support, the A-STREAM programme through scholarship and bursaries can provide this type of support along with mentorship,” Mrs. Berry explains.

So far, two adolescent fathers have benefited from the programme.

“We currently have an adolescent father who was in the final year of school and opted to drop out so that he could seek employment to be able to take care of his child. Through the A-STREAM programme, he will further his education, as he will be supported,” Mrs. Berry states.

For her part, Executive Director of the WCJF, Dr. Zoe Simpson, notes that the Foundation wants all adolescent mothers in Jamaica to access and continue their education during the period of their pregnancies.

Executive Director of the Women’s Centre of Jamaica Foundation (WCJF), Dr. Zoe Simpson, addresses a JIS Think Tank on September 6, where she announced changes to the Centre’s programme for adolescent mothers.

 

“All of them should be on par with their peers when they return to school. They must not be left behind on account of pregnancy. It doesn’t matter that a girl is pregnant; she can still achieve all her life goals and we want to walk beside her to ensure that she achieves those goals,” Dr. Simpson states.

She points out that the period of reintegration is crucial, as research has shown that at that stage, girls are still at risk of dropping out a second time.

The A-STREAM programme helps teenage parents to continue their education, thereby increasing their job opportunities. It also equips them with the necessary tools to take care of their children.

“At the Women’s Centre we are about repositioning the adolescent mother in society, so that she too can contribute to Vision 2030,” Dr. Simpson states.

Dr. Simpson notes that her agency will be exploring ways to be more inclusive of adolescent fathers.

Regarding the mentorship component of the programme, this requires that each candidate, including adolescent fathers, meet monthly with their assigned mentor to receive counselling on family life, parenting and balancing their studies.

“As we carry out our mandate of providing continuous education to adolescent mothers, we seek the support of the public as it relates to providing funding for the A-STREAM programme and mentorship, as the programme aims to provide every reintegrated girl with a mentor,” Mrs. Berry shares.

The Women’s Centre for Jamaica Foundation received the UNESCO Prize for Girls’ and Women’s Education in 2018, for its work in providing adolescent girls and young women in Jamaica with a second chance at education.

The facility has, to date, served approximately 46,000 teen mothers, many of whom have completed their secondary education.

The WCJF is a 40-year-old institution operating under the Ministry of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport.