Screen_Shot_2014-01-30_at_7.36.35_PMA United Nations progress report on population has spotlighted what it describes as high rates of teenage pregnancies in the Caribbean and other developing countries. The report has called on Governments to help adolescents achieve their full potential through education and adequate health services. And in this respect, Young people's sexual reproductive health is an area that requires increased attention in policies and programmes. But what are the root causes of this alarming trend and what can we do as a society to this increasing social and economic problem? Reporter Maria Novelo followed this story and filed the following report.


Maria Novelo – Reporting


Belize is among the countries in the Caribbean Region with the highest rate in teen pregnancies. With 55% of the population below the age of 25, studies show these target groups are the most vulnerable. Executive Director at the Belize Family Life Association, Joan Burke says, while these statistics are not unique to Belize, there are a number of factors that contribute to particular young girls engaging in sexual activities.


JOAN BURKE – Executive Director, BFLA


“When you look at a twelve year old, twenty five years ago and you look at a twelve year old today, there is distinct difference in terms of their physical development.  We have girls as young as nine that are now menstruating so there is something in there development that has changed, we don’t know if it is; there are some environmental factors contributing to that, definitely there are some nutritional factors that contribute to this development, they reach puberty at a much younger age, so physically they seems to be developing but emotionally and physiologically they are not as develop as they should be, so of course as development occurs the hormones are involve and so whilst they are concern of the physical appearance of the fact  that they are getting bigger and busted and all of that we are not teaching them how to manage those hormonal changes.”


In today’s technology and advanced era, most adolescents are raised on a steady diet of reality TV, YouTube and Facebook. Burke suggested that this compounds the fact and is stamping its cultural footprint on the minds of youngsters which remains an uphill battle in combating these issues.


JOAN BURKE – Executive Director, BFLA


“Not to mention now social media; the types of music, the movies even the carton which we feel hey they are child friendly and all that, that is no longer the case.  Sex is the most popular thing that is being sold today, right you turn on the TV and everything is sexy and the conversation and there is no censorship in Belize and we don’t sit back and we look at it as to how is this impacting young girls life.”


But how does a teen manage these changes? Burke says we as a society are not equipping these adolescents with the pertinent information they need to make better decisions.


JOAN BURKE – Executive Director, BFLA


“So we are quick to blame the girls and you what now these girls they are hot and this and that but look at what the society is creating the kind of environment that is being built and nurtured by society that allow or facilitate this kind of behaviour which then it became detrimental to our young girls and then they become pregnant, they become teen moms with no support system on their own, their own daughter will be out there doing basically the same thing because there is no support system.”


Maria Novelo - Reporter


“How do you propose as a society we can all mould the sexual attitudes and behaviour amongst this adolescence?”

 

JOAN BURKE – Executive Director, BFLA


“We can’t throw our hand in the air and play dead, we have to make a difference, we have to make a change because remember we are preparing these young people to take on Belize after this right but collectively we must come together and we must involve the civil society, NGO’s, the church, government, parent and the community right, yes we might have our differences but at the end of the day, the core to this, the person who is in the middle of  all this is our people, is our young children.”


Studies show that adolescents overestimate their capacities, relying on their immature ability to judge, or give in to peer pressure. According to the findings, the Caribbean is the only region where births to girls under age 15 rose.  In this region, such births are projected to rise slightly through 2030. Maria Novelo for CTV3 News!

Contraceptive use has decreased in Belize in the past years for unknown reasons and limited family planning education is available to this age group.

 

Adolescents are also very susceptible to contracting HIV/AIDS. This is especially so for girls and may be due in part to their early start of sexual activity with research showing that sexual activity can begin as early as 11 years. It is of interest to note that 20. 5 % of live births in 2011 were to girls  under 20 years of age; 27 % of low birth weight babies born  in 2011 were to girls  under 20 years; At least 23.1% of early neonatal deaths were in mothers under 20 years and 16.7% of hospital admissions for abortion were in girls under 20 years.

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