- Teenage pregnancy is a reality. But being a teenage mother should not be a 'death sentence', says Beryl Weir, Director of the Women's Centre of Jamaica Foundation.
- She insists that teenage mothers should resolve to continue their education and pursue the career they had envisaged before their pregnancy.
- Governments globally, including the Jamaican Government, through the Women's Centre Foundation, have taken steps to provide assistance to young teen mothers, with the hope of curtailing the problem of teenage pregnancy.
Teenage pregnancy is a reality. But being a teenage mother should not be a ‘death sentence’, says Beryl Weir, Director of the Women’s Centre of Jamaica Foundation. She insists that teenage mothers should resolve to continue their education and pursue the career they had envisaged before their pregnancy.
“Being a teen mother is not the end of the world. The Centre has helped over 26,000 girls to get their lives back on track, educationally,” Mrs. Weir continues.
Governments globally, including the Jamaican Government, through the Women’s Centre Foundation, have taken steps to provide assistance to young teen mothers, with the hope of curtailing the problem of teenage pregnancy.
Mrs. Weir points out that, “the Women’s Centre is one such organisation that provides counselling geared towards the girls’ total development, especially for girls who would not otherwise have the opportunity of re-entering the educational system.”
She tells JIS News that the Centre is better able to help the girls through developmental counselling, “that we do to change values and attitudes and behaviour.” The girls attend counselling sessions, dealing with a variety of issues such as abuse, time management, financial management and most importantly parenting skills.
The teens become pregnant because of a variety of situations ranging from sexual promiscuity, experimentation, abuse, incest and rape.
The rape cases, she says are particularly frightening because the victims are under 17 years old. Jamaica, she points out is not the only country with this grave problem.
In a recent study published by the American Journal of Public Health, in the USA, it was found that adult men fathered two-thirds of the infants born to school-aged mothers in California in 1993.
A study done in California in 1990, found that men older than the high school age fathered 77 per cent of babies born to girls 15 years and under. Men over age 25 fathered twice as many teenage births in comparison to young men under 18 years old.
“The girls who come to the Women’s Centre are oftentimes referred by guidance counsellors, teachers, nurses, and doctors from clinics and other persons who know about the centre, Mrs. Weir notes. She says we prefer to have the girls during their pregnancy, as it gives us the opportunity to counsel them in an attempt to curtail or prevent a second pregnancy.
The 25-year old Women’s Centre provides a ray of hope for these girls, especially Annie (not her real name), who is one of the newest additions to the Women’s Centre.
“I am a teenager.still in school.living with my parents and I am pregnant! What am I going to do? These are the questions I had to grapple with as a pregnant teen,” she discloses.
“I am 15 years-old and I was raped and got pregnant as a result,” Annie recalls, adding that she reported it to the police. Annie says she knows the name of her assailant, and that the police launched a search for him but they did not find him. Her story is not very different from many other rape victims.
“Despite my ordeal, I still went to school. I didn’t know that I was pregnant until my eighth month because my belly wasn’t even really big,” Annie explains.
“I didn’t realise anything, it wasn’t obvious that I was pregnant. I subsequently left school in May 2002,” she adds.
She recalls, “I went to the clinic and there was a lady from the Family Court there. She referred me to the Women’s Centre. She told my aunt to take me here and she did. I have been here at the Women’s Centre since June 2002”.
Looking back, Annie tells JIS News, “with the help of the counsellors at the Women’s Centre, I have managed to get to a place where I can talk about the rape without anger or bitterness, despite the fact that the incident totally disrupted my life, because I did not ask to be raped and to be a pregnant teenager.”
She continues, “I was going to give it up, because when I went to a doctor, at the Victoria Jubilee Hospital, they told me that when the baby comes and I decided not to keep it, I could call the Adoption Board and give it up. But my grandmother told me not to.”
“When the baby was just born, I didn’t like it. but now I feel she’s a part of me, so I kept her,” she says.
Annie’s baby is now six months old. She hopes to go back to school now, to finish her education.
In the future Annie hopes to become a teacher. She is the eldest of her three siblings, two brothers and one sister. “They are still small children so they don’t really understand what happened over the past few months,” Annie points out.
Giving advice to sexually active teens she cautions that they should protect themselves from unwanted pregnancies. “Having a child is a life-long commitment, and teens are not prepared or equipped or ready to deal with such responsibility.to be in charge of another human being’s life”.
As a teen who has been raped, Annie is urging all males not to consider, nor commit the act of rape. It is inhumane and degrading, and no one deserves to be treated like an object. “I could have contracted AIDS, which would have cost me my life and possible the life of the unborn child,” Annie shudders.