Sex education and fear mongering have an intricate relationship.
“Whatever you do, don’t get pregnant while you’re still a teen.” They whisper, then shout, then hammer. “Or don’t listen, and change diapers while your dreams are strangled with the baby clothes.”
How is a teenager even expected to respond to this. This is not a question, but an accusation. In a world where teenage pregnancy is akin to one of the seven sins, where we rush to “rescue” anyone that “falls beneath” it is surprising that WHO records 16 million girls giving birth in their adolescence every year, worldwide. Surely, if it such a crime to be a young mother, we must have the ideals, the technology and the system to avoid it. Then why don’t we.
The authors of a dedicated American book, ‘Teenage Pregnancy in Developed Countries: Determinants and Policy Implications’ drive the dilemma of teenager pregnancy in the Unites States home; “[U.S.] teenagers… have inherited the worst of all possible worlds… Movies, music, radio and TV tell them that sex is romantic, exciting, titillating… Yet, at the same time young people get the message good girls should say no.”
The reason young mothers don’t have the support (of any form) is that we deal with teenage pregnancy with either hostility or ignorance, while not explaining all that teens see through other mediums like TV. The reason a young girl needs to be worried if she gets pregnant is because society makes SURE she has it harsh.
It may be a father who chooses to disown the girl on hearing the news, it maybe a passerby with immense judgement, it may be a pastor bent on treating the child as weed she needs to be cured of, it may be her friends who forget her with each passing day. The crux is we aren’t prepared to love a young mother.
Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett writes for The Guardian that teenage pregnancy will not be stopped by shaming young mothers. Rejection and boycott of young mothers is widely practiced in major pockets of the civilized world, especially in the Indian subcontinent and in elite culture but the figures don’t show any change. Clearly, shaming is not working, and without divulging into whether it SHOULD be employed in the first place or not, it is clear that the approach needs to change.
Instead, the aid a young mother really needs can be broadly classified into three areas; moral support, financial back-up and medicinal help.
While love, care, and acceptance; and thus a change in mentality is too much to ask for from this blog post, mere support in voluntary work with dedicated agencies is one thing anyone anywhere in the world can do. It is a simple thing we should do.
Teenage pregnancy rates vary between countries because of differences in levels of sexual activity, marriage among teenagers, general sex education provided and access to affordable contraceptive options. Worldwide, teenage pregnancy rates range from 143 per 1000 in some sub-Saharan African countries to 2.9 per 1000 in South Korea.
The fifth annual State of the World’s Mothers report, published by the international charity Save the Children, found that 13 million births (a tenth of all births worldwide) each year are to women aged under 20, and more than 90% of these births are in developing countries.
Developing countries; such an illusion. If these countries really are so advanced shouldn’t the statistics tell differently?
Studies by the Guttmacher Institute reveal differently- “Most continental Western European countries have very low teenage birth rates. This is varyingly attributed to good sex education and high levels of contraceptive use (in the case of the Netherlands and Scandinavia), traditional values and social stigmatization (in the case of Spain and Italy) or both (in the case of Switzerland).”
Does this mean a teenage girl is less likely to get pregnant in South Korea than in Africa? No. It does not.
Statistics unfortunately do not tell us chance, but only rate. For all we know, the Health Department of Africa may be more focused on tending to young mothers than any other country in the world. It is just that they have a larger population to address than some other countries do.
In fact, what this data does tell us is that there are teen moms everywhere. True, some places more than others, some places are safer for abortion, some places provide more psychological pressure. But there is scope to help everywhere.
American teen singer Carly Ray Jepsen may have sought to motivate pregnant girls when she said “You’re supposed to be changing the world … not changing diapers” but her message, sadly, backfired. Instead of outright abortion of every teenager’s child, the objective really is to help the teens start thinking of themselves as something more valuable than just victims. Young mothers need to be empowered. That will happen not when we provide abortion clinics everywhere, but when we allow a girl to have a real choice whether she wants to go to that clinic, and if she doesn’t, there should be a good chance for her baby and her to have a healthy life.
This is where we can help. The concerned citizens of the world can make a young woman’s life easier by supporting a number of organizations in a number of ways.
Cortesha Sanders, founder of Mothers Helping Mothers would love to see you aid her in the mission to provide monetary and moral support to young mothers. Geneva Farrow is the founder of A Young Mother’s D.R.E.A.M. (YMD) a mentoring organization that helps young mothers complete their education, something we know is a basic prerequisite to do well in the 21st century. Alternative House’s Assisting Young Mothers Program provides shelter to those who are thrown out of their house, yet another way in helping out a teen mom survive. All these organisations, like many more, accept monetary or voluntary help.
The WHO tells us that if trends should continue, 750,000 teen girls will become mothers this year in the. Daughters of teen mothers are 3 times as likely to become teen mothers themselves. These statistics not only shame us, but laugh in the face of anyone who cares. Girls are dying. There isn’t enough help. When we put a young teenager girl in a situation to give birth, for which her body is still not ready, we are letting not one, but two lives be destroyed.
It is easy to find organisations to support. There are many options within the government (of almost all countries) themselves. All that is needed is the will. The will to show we care.