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CEO says while teen pregnancy is a complex issue, more needs to be done

During the official opening of the symposium on adolescent pregnancy in the Caribbean, the keynote address was delivered by the Chief Executive Officer in the Ministry of Human Development, Social Transformation and Poverty Alleviation, Judith Alpuche. She spoke to Love News about the objective of the meeting.

Judith Alpuche – CEO, Ministry of Human Development, Social Transformation and Poverty Alleviation

“This is a particular piece of a regional approach addressing this issue and as you know it is bringing together first ladies and linking them as advocates throughout the Caribbean on this issue. Mrs. Barrow attended a similar event in Central America so making those linkages for both sub regions but from Belize’s perspective, we are very much a part of this regional process because there is CARICOM Integrated Strategic Frame Work to address this issue and we have our own local plans as well. You may recall a couple months ago the Ministry of Health highlighted this issue along with PAHO and they have their plans of actions that they are dealing with particularly pieces of it is in the sexual and reproductive health policy as to how to deal with this issue, their maternal and child health units deal with these matters. From the perspective of social services or social sectors on a whole this is very much a part of what is in the National plan of action for children and adolescents so it’s not like we’re starting from scratch and there have been efforts and if you just think of where we are we are not completely there yet but where we are in terms of policies for girls to return to school the upgrading of the criminal code to aspects of sexual abuse because that’s an issue, the strengthening of child protection networks, the strengthening of health services making commodities more available the work that BFLA does etc. So there’s quite a bit going on in Belize it’s just a matter of how we can amplify those efforts and how we link them to the rest of the region.”

Alpuche said the issue of teenage pregnancy is a complex issue and needs to be addressed on many fronts.

Judith Alpuche – CEO, Ministry of Human Development, Social Transformation and Poverty Alleviation

“This is a very complex issue because it’s not one driving factor.  Even if you look at the whole issue of “sugar daddies” and only men and younger girls and that dynamic that has to do with gender disparities which we addressed through the National Gender policy, through the work of the National Women’s Commission and the work of the Women’s Department. As I said, the amendments to legislation that we have done deals with this issue, deals with the sexual exploitation issues, public awareness etcetera that has been ongoing by not only government but entities like NOPCAN that continue to push in this direction but at the end of the day we as a society really have to stand up and say ”this is not okay” ” this is not okay for young girls to be prey for older men, that is not okay. I will need to talk to my girl child and boy child about sex and sexuality or allow them to get that information so that they have that information.”  I want to be, as a parent, in those discussions. They’re going to get it from somewhere else if they don’t get it from you, but not only the information and scientific facts but also the values that come along with that. As a parent I have to open the communication lines with my child so that my child can come and tell me anything even if I don’t want to hear it or if it’s difficult to hear. So those are some of the pieces beyond what the government is doing, beyond the legal framework, beyond the policies and framework that are so fundamental to addressing this issue and that’s why we are looking at amplifying the response and building a network of champions because we need more voices to be saying the same thing, that until we as Belize and a Caribbean society stand up and say childhood should not be trumped by motherhood and really commit to that and tackle all the uncomfortable attendant issues it’s not going to work and the numbers are going to stay the same or increase.