Minister with responsibility for Information, Senator the Hon. Sandrea Falconer, says Jamaica has made significant progress in reducing the total fertility rate per woman over the last 40 years.
She informed that the country has seen a notable decline in the fertility rate among women from a high of 5.7 births per woman in the 1960s, to approximately 2.1 in 2012.
The total fertility rate of a population is the average number of children that is expected to be born to a woman over her lifetime.
The Minister, who was speaking at a luncheon in honour of the First Lady of Burkina Faso, Her Excellency Chantal Compaoré, at the Jamaica Pegasus hotel in New Kingston, on June 26, said this reduction has been the result of intense public education campaigns.
She pointed out that Jamaica has also made notable strides in reducing teenage pregnancy, which has fallen from a high of 31 per cent in the 1970s to 18 per cent in 2008.
“This was done through the commitment of the government and the dedication of all persons involved,” she said.
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Ms. Falconer said the government is committed to providing equal opportunities for women and in helping young mothers stay focused on their educational and career goals.
This commitment, she said, is highlighted in the administration’s recent adoption of the policy on the reintegration of teenage mothers, which now makes it mandatory for schools to accept these girls after pregnancy.
The policy will come into effect at the commencement of the new school year in September.
Senator Falconer noted that while Jamaica has had a number of successes in the fight against teenage pregnancy, over the years, there is still much work to be done.
“We have a responsibility to redouble our efforts to further reduce the rate of adolescent pregnancy. We have come a long way, but if we do not remain vigilant in the fight against teen pregnancy, the gains we have made may be reversed,” she said.
Ms. Falconer said an integrated multi-tiered approach that educates boys and girls on the value of abstaining from sexual activities, that encourages safe sexual practices, and which advances education on responsible parenting and family values must be actively pursued.
“There is also a need to develop a more caring and supportive society that provides assistance to adolescent mothers and provides opportunities for them to continue their education and keep focused on the path to success,” she added.
Meanwhile, Mrs. Compaoré, who is in the country on a six-day working visit tolearn about Jamaica’s experience in preventing adolescent pregnancies and supporting adolescent mothers, said there is much to take away from Jamaica’s experience.
She noted that after just two days in Jamaica, she is convinced that she “did not make a mistake in coming here to learn from you and your experiences.”
“I can assure you that as soon as we go back to Burkina Faso, we will give a public account of everything that we have learned here in your country,” she said.
The First Lady said she will do everything possible to mobilise state partners and members of civil society to undertake concrete action, “similar to what you have undertaken here in Jamaica, to ensure the prevention of unwanted pregnancies and in dealing with young girls who are pregnant.”
In Burkina Faso, recent studies show that adolescent girls and young women are the first victims of unwanted pregnancies and illegal/unsafe abortions, along with all the risks and consequences they cause.
[Special Page: First Lady from Burkina Faso Her Excellency, Madam Chantal Compaoré]
Mrs. Compaoré informed that a survey conducted in 2010 by the Ministry of Education in the West African country, found that teenage pregnancies continue to rise year after year.
Additionally, the survey showed that one in every 10 girls is sexually active before the age of 15, while more than half of the women in the country or 53 per cent are sexually active before they are 18 years and almost all women or 95 per cent before the age of 25.
In the meantime, Officer-in-Charge, United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) Sub-regional Office for the Caribbean, Patrice La Fleur, said the organisation continues to work with the Women’s Centre of Jamaica Foundation (WCJF), as part of its commitment in supporting the government to reduce teenage pregnancy and the risk of unintended second pregnancies.
She noted that in this regard, the UNFPA has provided technical and financial support to the WCFJ to support its work in this area.
“We believe that with the right information and means, young people can shape their future,” she said.
The six-day working visit, which has been organised by the UNFPA Sub-regional office for the Caribbean, and the UNFPA country office in Burkina Faso, will see the First Lady and her team holding talks with various stakeholders who work in the area of adolescent pregnancy.
Other participants on the mission include, Burkina Faso’s Minister of Women Promotion and Gender, Hon. Nestorine Sangare, and Head of Capacity Building in the Ministry of Women Promotion and Gender, Koudraogo Kabore.
Contact: Athaliah Reynolds-Baker