Helping Adolescent Mothers

How a UNFPA project is making a difference

“Adolescent mothers as a group face challenges arising from the stage of adolescent development as well as pregnancy and motherhood. They live in worlds which hold different and sometimes conflicting expectations of them. They are required to balance the results of changes in their lives, often without guidance and support, to make the transition from adolescent to mother.” [Extract from Listen to these stories: the Experiences, Pitfalls and Triumphs of Adolescent Mothers in Guyana - 2011]

A landmark project which was implemented by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and the Women Across Differences (WAD) ngo addressed the issue of adolescent mothers in Guyana. When this project was launched in 2008, it was envisaged that the project would result in changes for the individuals, including:

  • A reduction of unplanned pregnancies
  • Increased self-confidence through access to Sexual and Reproductive Health/Family Planning Information and Services
  • Acquisition of entrepreneurial knowledge and literacy skills and
  • Adoption of more positive lifestyles.

A significant aspect of the initiative entailed provision of psychosocial support for the adolescents. Subsequent to the initial one year project, a base-line study was conducted to examine the socio-cultural and socio-economic background of the adolescents. This was followed by a subsequent more in-depth study, which provided demographic information, socio-economic characteristics, information on challenges, experiences and perceptions and case studies of 12 adolescents.

The stories which the 12 adolescent mothers told were revealing. Their experiences emphasize the need for such projects, which are indications of the benefits derived from both UNDAF and the achievement of the MDGs.

Through their eyes we learn a number of things. Collectively, the young women cry for love and their being giving second chances in life – demonstrating that with an appropriate and supportive environment, their hopes of a bright future can become realities. We learn about lost opportunities to complete their formal education; once they acquire self-esteem and self-understanding, they have a desire to “pick up the pieces” and improve their literacy skills, while completing their secondary school programme.

We also learn of the roles of community and the absence of safety mechanisms. Once they shared their stories and realized that there were others with similar experiences and with access to counseling, new avenues to healing and self-improvement were opened.
Their stories told about the frustrations resulting from their familial response and society - including the judicial and social services. We also learnt about the reasons for engaging in unprotected sex – this was often caused by lack of information on sexual and reproductive health issues.
We also learnt of discrimination by health care workers, which caused many to refrain from seeking the necessary services for both their children and themselves. Additionally we heard of feelings of anger, hopelessness and despair.

Yet despite all of these negatives, through this project, hope was reborn and new perspectives gained. By expressing the facts about their lives, their feelings and efforts at self-improvement, these adolescents offered a wide audience the opportunity to take control of their own knowledge, attitudes and behaviours.

Appreciation was repeatedly expressed for the support provided by UNFPA and WAD, leading to the transformation of the lives of the 23 adolescent mothers. They credited the two entities for having a positive impact on their lives.

Last modified on Monday, 07 April 2014 20:34
Written on Saturday, 05 April 2014 Published in Newsletter Read 2071 times