This month, billions of people across the US and in Latin America congratulate and celebrate mothers and motherhood. Mothers come in all shapes and sizes and have unique experiences and stories to tell. Think of your mother and all the mothers you know. Now think of a teen mother. Who do you see?
At GOJoven we see vibrant, capable women with powerful and important voices in the conversation about comprehensive sexuality education and access to contraceptive care and information. Teen mothers certainly face numerous challenges, but the current rhetoric surrounding teen motherhood blames teens for getting pregnant. As Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin, United Nations Under-Secretary-General, states, “Many countries have taken up the cause of preventing adolescent pregnancies, often through actions aimed at changing a girl’s behavior. Implicit in such interventions are a belief that the girl is responsible for preventing pregnancy and an assumption that if she does become pregnant, she is at fault.”
Teen mothers aren’t the problem, and shaming teen mothers only stigmatizes women in need of services and support. In the US, preventing unintended pregnancy among teens means boosting comprehensive sexuality education, and increasing access to youth-friendly healthcare services, including inexpensive and effective contraceptive care. Rather than shaming and blaming, we need to protect a teen’s right to decide when and how often she becomes pregnant. The same is true in Central America.
Nekeisha is a young Belizean woman who became pregnant at an early age. In her digital story below, she shares how she really didn’t know about contraceptives before she got pregnant, and she still feels the tension between loving her children and missing her life as a relatively care-free teen. Since completing the Public Health Institute’s GOJoven Youth Leadership Fellowship Nekeisha has made it her mission to educate other young women on their rights and how to protect themselves from unwanted pregnancy. Rather than blaming and stigmatizing teen pregnancy, Nekeisha shares her experience with adolescents, teaching them about the many ways they can avoid becoming unintentionally pregnant.
Hundreds of GOJoven fellows like Nekeisha are dedicated to improving and expanding adolescent sexual and reproductive health (ASRH) choices, programs, services, and policies through education and advocacy. This year, GOJoven fellows are mobilizing to ensure that the Ministries of Health and Education in Mexico, Belize, Honduras and Guatemala uphold their commitment to provide comprehensive sexual education in schools. Stay up to date with their efforts by subscribing to updates using the form below, and liking us on Facebook today!
Let’s destigmatize teen motherhood and address the real causes behind unintended pregnancy in the US and globally!