JIS News

Story Highlights

  • Government commended for assisting pregnant girls with continuing their education.
  • The Women’s Centre addresses the problems of interrupted education and the accompanying social issues associated with teenage pregnancy.
  • According to the report, every day in developing countries, 20,000 girls under age 18 give birth.

The Government of Jamaica’s many interventions in support of the country’s adolescent mothers have come in for high praise from the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).

Deputy Director of the UNFPA’s Sub-regional Office for the Caribbean, Siti Oussein, has commended the Government for assisting pregnant girls with continuing their education, through the Women’s Centre of Jamaica Foundation’s (WCJF) Programme for Adolescent Mothers.

The Women’s Centre addresses the problems of interrupted education and the accompanying social issues associated with teenage pregnancy. It focuses on education, training and developmental counselling, thereby improving levels of employment and productivity among the young women, and delaying unwanted pregnancies.

Ms. Oussein was speaking at the launch of the UNFPA’s State of the World Population Report 2013, at the Chinese Benevolent Association in Kingston on October 30.

She informed that this programme, as well as the National Policy on Reintegrating School-aged Mothers into the Formal School System, have been highlighted in the report as a good practice.

Under the policy, which became effective in September this year, it is mandatory for all school-aged mothers to be reintegrated into the formal school system. Other key elements of the policy include: automatic referral of all pregnant girls to the WCJF; and monitoring of adolescent mothers to ensure they complete their education.

Ms. Oussein said that enabling girls to attend and remain in school is critical and speaks to the Government’s thrust to ensure adolescent mothers are able to complete their formal education.

“The UNFPA report shows that girls who remain in school longer are less likely to become pregnant. The experience of the Women’s Centre also confirms this as they have been able to keep the second pregnancy rate among the girls they see below two per cent, since the inception of the programme in the 1970s,” she said.

For his part, Minister of Health, Hon. Dr. Fenton Ferguson, noted that while Jamaica has been making some progress in realizing the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which relate to stemming teenage pregnancies which contribute to the level of maternal and child mortality, “a multi-sectoral and multi-stakeholder approach is the only way we can make a meaningful dent in maternal and child mortality ratios and the issue of teenage pregnancy.”

“The solution will require a concerted effort on the part of multiple stakeholders to reach our goal. While we need to address matters related to health, the social determinants, including poverty and unemployment, will also need to be addressed as well as education and even our legal system,” he said.

In the meantime, Ms. Oussein, noted that the report, entitled: ‘Motherhood in Childhood: Facing the Challenge of Adolescent Pregnancy’, aims to provoke a new way of thinking about tackling adolescent pregnancy and to encourage a shift away from interventions targeted at girls towards broad-based approaches that build girls’ human capital, protect girls’ rights and empower them to make decisions.

She said the report makes the case that adolescent pregnancy should not be seen as only the result of recklessness or a deliberate choice, but rather that of an absence of choices and of circumstances beyond a girl’s control.

“Throughout the world, adolescent pregnancies are more common among the poor, the uneducated and the rural (girls)….Adolescent pregnancy is a manifestation of inequity, poverty and powerlessness,” she said, adding that the report calls for actions that empower girls, uphold their basic human rights and put them on an equal footing with boys.

Ms. Oussein stressed that it is imperative that adolescents’ rights to comprehensive sexuality education are protected and obstacles to information and services that can help them avoid pregnancy, be torn down.

“Girls who are pregnant need our support, not stigma. They need our help to stay in school while they are pregnant and resume their education after they give birth,” she said.

According to the report, every day in developing countries, 20,000 girls under age 18 give birth, adding up to 7.3 million a year.

The report was launched by UNFPA, in conjunction with the Planning Institute of Jamaica (PIOJ).