KINGSTON, Jamaica -- Pregnant girls attending the Adolescent Sexual and Reproductive Health clinic at the Victoria Jubilee Hospital here told UNFPA Executive Director Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin about the many challenges they face. These include stigma and discrimination, isolation from peers and families, lack of support from their 'baby fathers', and limited access to opportunities for continuing their education and supporting themselves. All of these barriers they say, limit their ability to care for their babies and realize their dreams.
The girls raised their concerns during a tour of the facility last week as part of a series of activities undertaken during a three-day visit to the Caribbean island. Dr. Osotimehin told the girls that UNFPA was very interested in the concerns of young people, particularly young girls, and ensuring that they have opportunities to grow and fulfill their potential.
In a subsequent meeting with Prime Minister Portia Simpson-Miller, the Executive Director, pledged UNFPA’s commitment to work with the government to empower pregnant teens to take care of their children and prevent repeat unwanted pregnancies. He also promised UNFPA’s continued support to the Women’s Centre of Jamaica Foundation; and assistance to realize the Prime Minister’s desire to expand the programme to reach more youths, particularly those in rural areas, including young boys who father children. “Human capacity is the most important resource any country has. If we direct investment in young people’s education and health, and they make the right choices, they can actually drive the economy,” Dr. Osotimehin said.
The Women’s Centre is a Government initiative that provides continuing education, counselling and skills training for girls under 17 years who become pregnant while still in school. The girls receive family planning education as an integral part of the counselling programme and with the knowledge and consent of their parents are encouraged to accept and use a method of choice, to ensure that they complete their secondary education and delay a second pregnancy.
UNFPA is currently supporting the development of a policy to reintegrate adolescent mothers into the formal education system. In the meantime, UNFPA provides sexual and reproductive health information and supplies, and computers to strengthen the programme offered by the Women’s Centre. In addition, UNFPA supports peer counselling sessions for young men on sexual and reproductive health issues and field visits to encourage adaptation of the model in other countries.
Jamaica has a teen fertility rate of 72 births per 1,000 young women (15-19). As the largest referral maternity hospital in the Anglophone Caribbean, the Victoria Jubilee Hospital is responsible for delivering most of the babies born to teen mothers. The hospital sees more than 70,000 women and delivers approximately 9,000 babies each year. Established in 1887, it is dedicated to improving the standards of obstetric care in Jamaica, providing training and research opportunities for midwives, nurses, doctors, and other health care personnel.
-- Althea Buchanan