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Adolescents are shaping humanity's present and future. Depending
on the opportunities and choices they have during this period in
life, they can enter adulthood as empowered and active citizens,
or be neglected, voiceless and entrenched in poverty.
When a girl becomes pregnant, her present and future change radically, and rarely for the better. Her education may end, her job prospects evaporate, and her vulnerabilities to poverty, exclusion and dependency multiply.
STATISTICS ABOUT ADOLESCENT PREGNANCY
· 20,000 girls giving birth every day
· 95 per cent of the world’s births to adolescents occur in developing countries
· Most of the world’s births to adolescents— 95 per cent—occur in developing countries, and nine in 10 of these births occur within marriage or a union.
· About 19 per cent of young women in developing countries become pregnant before age 18.
· Every year in developing countries, 7.3 million girls under the age of 18 give birth. The number of pregnancies is even higher.
· Girls under 15 account for 2 million of the 7.3 million births that occur to adolescent girls under 18 every year in developing countries.
· About 70,000 adolescents in developing countries die annually of causes related to pregnancy and childbirth.
· 3.2 million unsafe abortions among adolescents each year
· According to estimates for 2010, 36.4 million women in developing countries between ages 20 and 24 report having had a birth before age 18. Of that total, 17.4 million are in South Asia. Among developing regions, West and Central Africa have the largest percentage (28 per cent) of women between the ages of 20 and 24 who reported a birth before age 18.
UNDERLYING CAUSES OF ADOLESCENT PREGNANCY
• Child marriage
• Gender inequality
• Obstacles to human rights
• Sexual violence and coercion
• National policies restricting access to contraception, age-appropriate sexuality education
• Lack of access to education and reproductive health services
• Under-investment in adolescent girls’ human capital
Apart from the above underlying causes an ecological approach can be used to highlight other causes of adolescent pregnancy. An “ecological” approach to adolescent pregnancy is one that takes into account the full range of complex drivers of adolescent pregnancy and the interplay of these forces.
Pressures from all levels conspire against girls and lead to pregnancies, intended or otherwise. National laws may prevent a girl from accessing contraception.
Community norms and attitudes may block her access to sexual and reproductive health services or condone violence against her if she manages to access services anyway.
Family members may force her into marriage where she has little or no power to say “no” to having children.
Schools may not offer sexuality education, so she must rely on information (often inaccurate) from peers about sexuality, pregnancy and contraception. Her partner may refuse to use a condom or may forbid her from using contraception of any sort.
FOUNDATIONS FOR PROGRESS
· EMPOWER GIRLS: Building girls' agency, enabling them to make decisions in life
· RECTIFY GENDER INEQUALITY: Put girls and boys on equal footing
· RESPECT HUMAN RIGHTS FOR ALL: Upholding rights can eliminate conditions that contribute to adolescent pregnancy
· REDUCE POVERTY: In developing and developed countries, poverty
EIGHT WAYS TO GET THERE
1 Girls 10 to 14: Preventive interventions for young adolescents
2 Child marriage: Stop marriage under 18, prevent sexual violence and coercion
3 Multilevel approaches: Build girls' assets across the board; keep girls on healthy,safe life trajectories
4 Human rights: Protect rights to health, education, security and freedom from poverty
5 Education: Get girls in school and enable them to stay enrolled longer
6 Engage men and boys: Help them be part of the solution
7 Sexuality education and access to services: Expand age-appropriate information, provide healthservices used by adolescents
8 Equitable development: Build a post-MDG framework based on human rights,equality, sustainability
BENEFITS OF PREVENTING ADOLESCENT PREGNANCIES
· EQUAL RIGHTS AND OPPORTUNITY: Preventing pregnancy helpsensure girls enjoy all basichuman rights.
· BETTER MATERNAL AND CHILD HEALTH: Later pregnancies reducehealth risks to girls and totheir children.
· MORE GIRLS COMPLETING THEIR EDUCATION: This reduces the likelihood of childmarriage and delays childbearing,leading eventually to healthier birthoutcomes. Also builds skills, raises their status
· ADOLESCENT GIRLS' POTENTIAL FULLY REALIZED: Prospects are brighter for agirl who is healthy, educatedand able to enjoy rights
· INCREASED ECONOMIC PRODUCTIVITY AND EMPLOYMENT: Investments that empowergirls improve income-earningprospects.
All the above information is culled from The State of The World Population Report for 2013 entitled MOTHERHOOD IN CHILDHOOD. FACING THE CHALLENGES OF ADOLESCENT PREGNANCY. I encourage everyone to read it, understand more about adolescent pregnancy and how to prevent it, share it and take action accordingly.