DESPITE suffering a second trimester pregnancy loss last month, one particular student of the Women's Centre of Jamaica Foundation (WCJF) was very happy that Miss World 2019 Toni-Ann Singh visited her school on Monday.
“It was great because she told us some wonderful things and it encouraged me so I can further my education,” the 16-year-old told All Woman. “It's really hard to focus sometimes, especially since losing my baby, because I am just always crying especially when I see babies or pregnant women, but she reminded us that we can be anything that we want to be in life. We should hold up our heads and keep smiling.”
The jovial young woman, who has been enrolled in the Women's Centre's Programme for Adolescent Mothers (PAM) for three months, shared that she has a singing voice to rival Miss World's, and she aspires to become a journalist.
“I will be sitting my CSEC exams next school year and I feel better than before. It's easier being here at the Women's Centre because I don't have the distractions like I did at school. I can concentrate better now.”
Another teenage mother shared that she felt inspired by Singh's presence and positive words.
“I feel inspired,” she said, while rocking her one-month-old baby gently. “I know that it is not the end of the world even when our own families give up on us, as long as we don't give up on ourselves.”
“If she can do it we can do it,” another chimed in.
Another teen mother, who enrolled into the programme at 15 years old and is now reintegrated into the high school system and preparing to sit external exams next semester, visited the centre with her toddler to meet Miss World in person.
“She said we can be anything we want to be once we put our minds to it. I want to be a pathologist so I'm doing the sciences is school,” she said. “I felt as if I couldn't continue when I got pregnant, but with the support that I got here and from my family I feel like I can still achieve my goals.”
Just moments earlier Singh had told the group of adolescent mothers that: “You are so important and you are so loved, and there is no title, no label, nothing that can hold you back. You are capable of anything you set your mind to”.
“The whole purpose of what I'm passionate about is to ensure that whatever that is, and however I can help, we do it,” Singh added. “Whatever your capabilities are, we want to ensure that you turn them into opportunities so that you can live the things that you dream. We love you; we have the greatest respect for you, because being a mother is not easy. You are so strong, you are capable of anything. If I can do it, you can do it.”
The Jamaican beauty queen, who hails from the parish of St Thomas, told All Woman that choosing the Women's Centre as her Beauty with a Purpose project was only natural.
“I'm just very passionate about women. It's a part of what I studied in college and I thought what better way than to come first to the Women's Centre,” she said. “Motherhood is very big to me. I've been raised by a very strong family unit and very strong aunts and women so I know the benefit of having the support necessary to become your best self.”
Counsellor at the WCJF Valerie Wilson was in high spirits as the young ladies allowed Singh to hold and play with their babies in the nursery.
“It's an awesome inspirational day for them. They can look at the situation and see where they can achieve — maybe not Miss Jamaica or Miss World as their goal, but they know that they can soar to any place in the sky. Because Toni-Ann Singh has taken up the mantle of teenage pregnancy, the girls feel empowered because she has taken the platform for them. They have another person fighting for them and letting them know that they can achieve their goals. They can look at her and know that there is a place for them in this world and they can achieve.”
She told All Woman that the afternoon of bonding with the global representative will go a long way in helping to change the mindsets.
“Coming out of certain communities, there is already a certain expectation that is ingrained in the girls,” she lamented. “When they come to the Women's Centre we are trying to make them into young ladies. We are asking them to turn their lives around and look to the future, and the hardest thing is to change their mindset, but learning is a lifelong thing. I'm really happy that she could come and bond with them like this.”