The spouses of some of the region’s heads of government met today for a symposium entitled call to action: adolescent pregnancy in the Caribbean. Minister of Foreign Affairs and Attorney General, Wilfred Elrington addressed the gathering and said the regional problem needs to be addressed.
Wilfred Elrington – Minister of Foreign Affairs
“As you are all aware, the tendency within the Caribbean is for teenage pregnancy to occur disproportionately among poor families and poor families make up the majority of our Caribbean populations. Thus, when we neglect and marginalize such a large segment of our societies, we are in effect consigning our countries to persistent underdevelopment and poverty with all its attendant evils because we interalia deprive our nations of the essential healthy skilled and disciplined work force. This call for action is therefore coming none too soon and given the passion and proven ability of our Special Envoy for Women and Children Mrs. Kim Simplis Barrow to fearlessly and successfully tackle difficult societal problems I am very optimistic that the attention to our pregnant adolescents who desperately need and deserve and of which they have been so persistently deprived will soon be forthcoming.”
For her part, Special Envoy for Women and Children, Kim Simplis Barrow stated that for the problem to be solved, there needs to be effective communication.
Kim Simplis Barrow, Special Envoy for Women and Children
“It is one of those persistent problems that people prefer to whisper about in private quarters rather than have open discussions. This lack of open dialogue however is one of the key factors that contribute to the prevalence of adolescents. Parent- child communication is often limited, legal barriers block access to services and sex education is still widely seen as taboo. The result is that teens engage in early sexual activity without being properly educated about the associated risks and how to protect themselves from those risks. If we are to reduce and eventually end adolescent pregnancies in our region the first step is to place the issue squarely on the proverbial table. It is important that information is shared to dispel the many societal myths attached to this issue to reduce stigma and foster a supportive environment for our adolescents and particularly our girls.”
In 2013, the state of the world population produced by the United Nation Population Fund noted that out of the seven point three million births, two million are to girls who are fourteen years or younger. According to the report, the Caribbean countries with the highest rate of teen pregnancy were Belize, Guyana, the Dominican Republic, Jamaica and St. Vincent and the Grenadines.