by Elmer Cornejo
In December, I had the opportunity to travel to Trinidad and Tobago together with Stephen Diaz of the GOJoven Belize Alumni Association and Amber Pitts of the Department of Youth Service to participate in the High Level Consultation to reduce adolescent pregnancy in the Caribbean Region. All of my expenses were covered by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).
The meeting was attended by 10 Ministers of Governments from across our region, other government officials, representatives from civil society, the private sector, youth organizations like GOJoven, the United Nations and other international development partners.
On our first day, we were briefed on what would be covered at the consultation and how we would participate. At that meeting Amber and I agreed to share our individual stories as to how adolescent pregnancy had impacted our lives personally. Amber shared her story from the perspective of being a mother in her adolescent years and I shared my story as being the child of an adolescent mother. It was a unique moment for me because young men rarely have the opportunity to share how they too can be affected by an adolescent pregnancy. What I hoped to convey as a young man is how men are also involved in the problem of adolescent pregnancy. This also means they are part of the solution to reduce and eventually end adolescent pregnancy in our region.
Also during the first day, we had the opportunity to view and comment on the regional framework to reduce adolescent pregnancy drafted by the Caribbean Community (CARICOM). We saw a lot of it that we weren’t in agreement with and worked all afternoon rectifying “errors” and inserting proposed ideas to the draft. It was a success, and at the end we turned in the revised draft in to the organizers. Dr Babatunde, Executive Director for UNFPA said he was glad for our effort.
On the second day, youth in our region had the opportunity to have a discussion and share our ideas with Dr. Babatunde. One of the ideas we proposed was the creation of a Youth Task Force to help with the implementation of the Integrated Framework to Reduce Adolescent Pregnancy in the Caribbean. Dr. Babatunde was supportive of this idea.
After spending the rest of that day working on the draft Integrated Framework to Reduce Adolescent Pregnancy, we attended a reception where we were entertained by two violinists.
At the reception, I spoke with the Honourable Herman Longsworth, Minister of Youth and Sports of Belize, about a possible follow-up to the consultation. He agreed that he would support activities we’d like to make as follow up to the consultation.
All-in-all the mission was rather productive and successful! I am looking forward to the follow-up meeting scheduled for the end of the month in Belmopan City, Belize. Thank you UNFPA/UNDP for the opportunity to participate. I am sure that smart investment in sex education and access to sexual and reproductive health services for young women in the Caribbean can bring about a big change, not only for the development of women in the region, but for society in general.
– Elmer Cornejo, GOBelize Fellow 2009