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Helping teenage mothers to finish their education

Today at the Belize Institute of Management, a conference was held to talk about young girls and education, specifically the hindrances to these girls’ education. Diana Shaw from the Child Development Fund was able to tell us the details of what was being discussed.

Diana Shaw – Child Development Foundation: “We are looking specifically at challenges that prevent girls from finishing their education: one of the major ones that came up that we are discussing today is teenage pregnancy, how that impacts young women and being able to attain an education. We are looking at it from a number of aspects: one firstly that teenage pregnancy is not an isolated incident, it usually is the result of the child having been exposed to abuse. In many cases, the young women whom we have worked with who have become pregnant as teenagers, before that happened they were sexually abused. We want to look at the wider context of what is happening around teenage pregnancy and why girls are getting pregnant. Also to look at what we have to do to have a more holistic approach to ensure that if a young girl becomes pregnant that it shouldn’t be the end of her educational potential and her ability to provide support to the productivity and national development. We have a number of agencies from the government that are involved in the discussion, we also have nongovernmental organizations, we have representatives from private sectors and also representatives from schools in the discussion.”

Shaw also told us about one school that is going above and beyond to help their students who become pregnant by allowing them to re-enroll as well as providing the necessary support.

Diana Shaw – Child Development Foundation: “There are some schools that are already reintegrating girls so one Catholic school would be St. Catherines that already has an reintegration policy where they allow the girls to come back to school after she has given birth and provide support. The thing is you don’t want to say okay girls should get back into school but we have to recognize now, that girl will need more support, she may need counseling because we want to help to make sure that she does not make the decision to have another child during her teenage years and that she is really able to focus on her education. The counseling is important as well as social work intervention because it may have happened that she got pregnant because she was abused and then we have to address the factor of her being exposed to abuse in the home or in the community, that has to be addressed. She will also need support for the child, she may need to learn parenting skills, she will need financial support, she will also need caregiving support. All of these things are an important parts of the response that has to happen so it is going to take more than just the government. It is going to require the entire community working together to ensure that the full support that is needed to help this young girl is provided. We are hoping to push a process, we are mobilizing people to get behind this issue and to build a groundswell that we start to really discuss this as a national priority because it is a national priority. To ensure that our young people understand how to make better decisions that they receive support from and are being protected from being abused and preyed on. That if they do get pregnant that we help them to recover quickly and that it does not impute that national development of a country.”

This conference is a part of a national consultation. It has already been held in Dangriga, Punta Gorda, Orange Walk, the Cayes, and Cayo. /////