BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, Dec. 1 – Adolescent pregnancy is a major concern in the Caribbean. In fact, it is estimated that around 20 per cent of women in the Caribbean have had at least one child by the age of 19, and a considerable percentage of adolescent girls give birth before the age of 15.
The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) has not only made a call for urgent action to address this situation, but is providing what it believes are realistic, attainable goals that, if met, can have tremendous positive consequences beyond just having fewer teen moms.
Targets and recommendations have been outlined in an Integrated Strategic Framework for the Reduction of Adolescent Pregnancy in the Caribbean developed by a multi-sectoral and multidisciplinary Regional Task Force led by UNFPA in collaboration with the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Secretariat.
While acknowledging that initiatives are already being implemented, the framework is aimed at accelerating progress in the reduction of adolescent pregnancy. More specifically, the overall goal of the framework is to reduce the number of adolescent pregnancies in each country of the English and Dutch-speaking Caribbean by at least 20 per cent by 2019.
“Results will be achieved by addressing the issue in an integrated and inter-sectoral manner, with participation of key stakeholders,” the UNFPA says.
This draft framework proposes five outcomes by 2019:
· All adolescents have access to age appropriate accurate information as well as quality sexual and reproductive health services and commodities. Services should be available, accessible, acceptable, appropriate, equitable, and effective;
· All adolescent girls and boys have access to age-appropriate comprehensive sexuality education (at least as of the age of 10) as included in national school curricula implemented in all schools, and through informal education modalities for those adolescents not in school;
· All governments implement social protection mechanisms for the prevention of all forms of violence against adolescent girls and boys, especially the poorest and most marginalized;
· All governments in the English- and Dutch speaking Caribbean adopt common legal standards concerning ages of marriage, consent, prosecution of perpetrators of sexual violence and access to social protection and sexual and reproductive health services; and
· Governments in the English, French and Dutch-speaking Caribbean exchange knowledge, information and adopt good practices in addressing social determinants of adolescent pregnancy.
“The goal to substantially reduce adolescent pregnancy in the English, French and Dutch-speaking Caribbean will allow adolescent girls to fully exercise their rights, especially their sexual and reproductive rights, and to grow to their full potential,” the UNFPA says. “This will contribute increased opportunities for income generation and therefore to the reduction of poverty.”