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The building of a prosperous Jamaica must include the empowerment of young women, says Minister of State in the Ministry of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport, Hon. Alando Terrelonge.

Speaking recently at the Women’s Centre Foundation of Jamaica in St. Andrew, he argued that a crucial part of the process is the teaching of “life skills of good parenting for adolescents”, so that the next generation can be better positioned for personal advancement and nation-building.

The State Minister stressed that the youngsters must maintain a strong focus on their education, so that they too can play an active and positive role in the development of the country.

“The empowerment assistance provided by the Centre is critical, as an educated mind is the greatest tool you can wield. An education sets you on the path of social and financial independence that will be beneficial to you and your children and by extension the rest of society,” he said.

Meanwhile, Mr. Terrelonge said that while the Women’s Centre focuses on the empowerment of young mothers, he has been working extensively with the Male Unit at the Bureau of Gender Affairs on a special project – Young Fathers’ Initiative – which seeks to provide educational and mentorship programmes for young fathers.

“We teach them important life skills of parenting, how to raise the next generation of young kings and queens, by building stable relationships with their children as good, caring and loving fathers,” he noted.

The State Minister pointed out that research has shown that there still remains a high level of teenage pregnancies in Jamaica, the Caribbean and in the Sub-Saharan Africa region, with many of the teen mothers dropping out of school.

“Do not be daunted by the challenges you face today. Do not live in a state of shame and regret, but rather, forge ahead with confidence and believe in yourselves, knowing that the programmes being offered by the Government at the Women’s Centre are put in place to help you rise above the difficult periods and to live prosperous lives,” he said.

The State Minister also called for increased education on sex, parenting and Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs), as research has shown that adolescents are more likely to practise safe sex and delay sexual relationships when exposed to sex education.

The visit to the Centre included an introduction of Ambassador for the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, to the work of the institution.

Mr. Terrelonge lauded UNICEF for its support to education and empowerment programmes at the Centre and also thanked Ambassador Fraser-Pryce for sharing with the teen mothers her experiences as a mother and athlete.

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