‘A 15-year-old is too young to give birth’

By Michelle Loubon

Alvaro Serrano, regional communication adviser for Latin America and the Caribbean at the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) regional office, says 20,000 girls under 15 give birth every day around the world and it was necessary to tackle the root causes of adolescent pregnancy since there were substantial economic, human and social costs attached to it.

 On a personal level, early motherhood could affect a person’s chances of pursuing their full potential and getting a sound education.

 The theme of Serrano’s presentation was “The State of World Population Report and Other Matters”. He also displayed a copy of the UNFPA 2013 report  titled “Motherhood In Childhood: Facing the challenge of adolescent pregnancy”. 

 Based on UNFPA 2013 stats, the Caribbean countries with the highest teen pregnancy rates are Guyana, Belize, Jamaica, Antigua and Barbuda, Turks and Caicos and Suriname.

 The report also found despite the fall in total fertility rates, adolescent birth rates remain relatively high in the Caribbean. 

Serrano, who was born in Colombia but resides in Panama, made the comment during a UNFPA breakfast meeting at Siparia Room, Hyatt Regency, Wrightson Road, Port of Spain, yesterday.  

  “The global population of the world is 7.2 billion...47 per cent of the population is less than 25 years old, so we have a very young population. Every day, more than 20,000 girls give birth and 25 per cent of that number usually are girls below age 15.  Every person below 18 is considered a child,” said Serrano.

 “The reality of a girl giving birth at age 15  should not be seen as a situation as why she is getting pregnant. It should be seen in the context of all the realities around her life and if she knows about why it is happening, knowledge about her body and why this is happening. It should not be seen as why she is getting pregnant and if she knows about her body and the reality a girl  less than 15 years is not ready to give birth.

 “We need to involve parents. A 15-year-old is not  yet ready to give birth.  It needs to be changed and addressed correctly. We need to involve parents,  families, governments and all the international communities to make a change and make it better,” she added.  

Commenting on  the murder and sexual assault of six-year-old Keyana Cumberbatch, Serrrano said: “It is not an isolated incident. Abuse is part of the society and it is a serious issue. There is the need for education about the abuse of rights. Some of the responsibility lies with the school systems.”

Among those who also made presentations were Althea Buchanan, UNFPA representative for Advocacy and Communication for the Caribbean, and Aurora Noguera-Ramkissoon, assistant representative, UNFPA Sub-Regional Office.

 Noguera-Ramkissoon said parents also have a key role to play in educating their children about making responsible sexual decisions. She felt there should be gender balance with regard to sex education.

 She also said legislation needed to be reformed because the law states “girls as young as 12, boys as young as 14, can get married and the age of sexual consent is 16.”   

Buchanan said the breakfast meeting was a precursor to a more in-depth regional consultation on Monday at the same venue.

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