J'cans urged to change perception of adolescent mothers

Thursday, March 22, 2018

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KINGSTON, Jamaica (JIS) — Executive Director of the Women's Centre of Jamaica Foundation (WCJF), Dr Zoe Simpson, is calling for a change in how Jamaicans perceive adolescent mothers served by the entity.

Noting that some of the girls are verbally abused on the streets, she said that “they are not worthless as some people think”.

“They are not lacking in ambition that some people may want to think. They are not rude and out of order…. The vast majority are girls who will do anything humanely possible so they can complete their secondary education,” she noted.

Simpson was addressing the first of the two-part 'Four Women' cultural series at the Institute of Jamaica, downtown Kingston, recently.

The WCJF was established in 1978 with a mandate to provide adolescent mothers with continuing education during pregnancy and has since expanded to include seven main centres and 11 outreach stations islandwide.

At the facilities, the girls engage in an integrated day programme comprising academic instruction, individual and group counselling as well as vocational training. Academic instructions are offered in nine subjects for adolescent mothers who are preparing to sit the Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC).

Simpson informed that 1,237 girls, aged 12 to 17, were on roll in 2017. Of these, 660 were new entrants.

“One per cent were 12-year-olds; four per cent were 13-year-olds; 17 per cent of that population were 14-year-olds; 30 per cent, 15-year-olds; 33 per cent 16-year-olds; and 15 per cent 17-year-olds,” she noted.

Giving further details of the intervention programme, Simpson said the WCJF first seeks to know the girls, their individual circumstances, where they are coming from and the men who got them pregnant.

She said the centre also examines any psychosocial challenges that each girl may have, impediments to completing her education and the extent of the assistance that she will require to advance her life.

Simpson said that the entity has been successful in assisting the adolescent mothers to delay a second pregnancy.

She noted that the second pregnancy rate has remained well below two per cent for the last 40 years, adding that the girls tend not to have a repeat pregnancy until later in life.

“We show them that there is a lot of potential residing in each of them. We show them that there is no limit to their achievements and all they can become. We show them that there is hope beyond an early pregnancy, irrespective of what the society says,” Simpson said.

“Several of the girls advance to tertiary-level education and any profession in Jamaica and the world that you can think of,” she added.

To date, the WCJF has served more than 47,000 adolescent mothers.

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