Barbados continues to do well when it comes to addressing the issue of teenage pregnancy, but more needs to be done.
This was the view expressed by Jane Armstrong, the chief project officer of the Maria Holder Memorial Trust, at the end of a pilot project, which assisted a total of 75 young mothers over 18 months in Barbados and Grenada,
The project, which started in 2013, was the result of a partnership between the Barbados Family Planning Association (BFPA), the Maria Holder Memorial Trust and the Caribbean Policy Development Centre (CPDC).
It was designed to increase opportunities for young mothers to get gainful employment, with the individuals given counseling, lessons in financial planning and other life skills. They also had the opportunity to learn and trade and do Caribbean Examination Council (CXC) subjects.
However, of the targeted 25 young mothers in Barbados, 14 completed the programme, compared to 33 of the 50 targeted in Grenada.
“These statistics are indicative of the challenges that young mothers face and recognition must be [given] to the young mothers for their effort and commitment in completing the programmes. . . . It is not easy,” said Armstrong.
“The issue of young women becoming mothers too early in their lives is a continuing one in the region and stifles the opportunities for many. So I hope with this project we have been able to change the lives of some and help on a positive course in their life’s journey,” she added.
Executive director of the BFPA Juliette Bynoe-Sutherland said when compared to other countries, the percentage of teenage pregnancy in Barbados was low.
“But I always say, in small societies like ours, it is not important to look at the numbers. So Barbados has a low number of teenage mothers, compared let’s say to Trinidad and Guyana, [but] for each teenage mother, for each young person who has an unplanned pregnancy before the time, for that person there is an individual consequence,” she explained.
She noted that in many of the issues surrounding teenage pregnancies were cyclical and the families involved were struggling to get out of poverty.
While lauding the BFPA for its work over the years in encouraging contraception, as well as managing and planning for families, Bynoe-Sutherland acknowledged that some individuals were still “falling through the cracks”.
“It is important to recognize that though we may not have the scale of some of the other Caribbean territories, for our societal context, having the numbers that we do really has a tremendous social consequence.
“As we are learning when you have a pregnancy very early and you are lacking the financial wherewithal, you are lacking the social support you are unable to get employment, as you would have perhaps planned for when you were young,” she added.
The BFPA spokeswoman said it was therefore critical to “deal with the numbers that we have here in Barbados” and try to provide an enabling and supportive environment.
Meanwhile, Executive Director of the CPDC Shantal Monroe-Knight called for greater private sector collaboration in addressing the issue, acknowledging that the Government was financially restrained. (MM)