‘Still I Rise: Reintegration of Teen Mothers in Education’ project launched by GRPA, YWCA

(Georgetown, July 26, 2016) – The phrase ‘Still I Rise’ resonates with many women because those words are from the poem written by famous poet, author and activist, Maya Angelou. The poem is about triumph over adversity, strength, courage, and fortitude.  Also encouraging women to not accept one’s vulnerability in the face of domination, and joining together with one voice and saying, we will overcome.

At a simple but highly significant ceremony held at the YWCA’s Brickdam office, the two organizations, Guyana Responsible Parenthood Association (GRPA) and the Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA) joined with their partners – the Ministry of Education, Republic Bank and the Rotary Club of Georgetown to launch their ‘Still I Rise: Reintegration of Teen Mothers in Education’ project, that will give 50 young women an opportunity to make their lives better.

This project seeks to empower, educate and support teen mothers, vulnerable teenage adolescent girls and their families. The beneficiaries will be supported with the basic items to re-enter the school system, education sessions focusing on sexuality education, personal development, psychosocial support to beneficiaries and families and families advocacy actions for the introduction and implementation of the reintegration strategy under the Ministry of Education. The first phase of the project will be from July to December 2016 and the second, January to June 2017. Each phase will accommodate 25 girls.

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“Teenage pregnancy is a complex issue which has multi contributing factors that are common knowledge to many. It is a symptom of a bigger societal sickness, it is not just a health issues but a developmental issue that is deeply rooted in poverty, gender inequality, violence, child and forced marriages, power imbalance between teenage girls and their male partners, lack of education and the failure of systems and institutions to protect this vulnerable group,” highlighted the Minister within the Ministry of Education, Hon. Nicolette Henry in her feature address.

The Minister illustrated that despite the efforts of the GRPA and its partners, teenage mothers still remain the most vulnerable group in this country. She added that teenage pregnancy, witnessed here in Guyana and globally, is among the most pervasive problem impacting education, the health sector, socio-economic and political empowerment of our young women.

“This cannot, and must not be the future that we prepare for our daughters; this cannot, and must not be the future that we prepare for our young sisters. We must act now to ensure a better tomorrow for them. For their families, for their communities and the country,” Minister Henry affirmed. Importantly, the state of affairs concerning teenage girls requires a multi-sectoral approach.

After speaking on the causes and impact of teenage pregnancy and challenges of young mothers, Minister Henry suggested a few measures that can be taken to minimize teenage pregnancy. These include access to age appropriate, accurate and comprehensive information on sexual education; critical thinking skills; and they must be assured that there is hope for a bright future for teenage mothers.

According to research, it has been found that Guyana has the second largest rate of teenage pregnancy in Latin America and the Caribbean with about 3000 young women getting pregnant annually. The Minister recognised that many of these girls are forced into early sex, some do so voluntarily and for various reason, and they all stand a higher risk of dying in childbirth than girls in their twenties.

“This is a cause for concern, therefore it is incumbent on all of us to join hands to curb this scourge…I am convinced that by joining hands the project’s theme can become a reality,” Minister Henry said.

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The presence of the sponsors, The Rotary Club of Georgetown and Republic Bank, was an indication of their concern, commitment and resilience to play a meaningful role in helping to formulate strategies that will help to put an end to the assault of the future of our teenage girls, the communities from which they come and the entire country. “It is high time that something be done to save our young women,” Minister Henry declared.

Elizabeth Cox of the Rotary Club of Georgetown noted that her organization was attracted to the project because it is aligned with two principles held by its parent body. Those are maternal and child care and literacy.

Cox emphasized that this project is special because of its potential impact and the fact that it is a model that can be replicated. She added that the Rotary was approached at the right time since funding was set aside for such a project.

Michelle Johnson, Marketing and Communications Manager, Republic Bank recognized the power and purpose of the theme – ‘Still I Rise’.  While alluding to the poem penned by Maya Angelou, Johnson emphasized that “the theme resonates strongly with Republic Bank’s Social Investment Initiative – “The Power to Make a Difference”, where the Bank pursues projects focused on the creation of better, more successful societies”.

She added that teenage pregnancy has been at the forefront of Republic Bank’s “Power to Make A Difference” efforts in recent years as is seen in its relationship with the Women Across Differences organization. In this regard the Bank embraces this opportunity to partner with the GRPA and the YWCA, and are heartened by the plans for the reintegration of teens into the education system.

While commending the organizers for this initiative, the UNICEF Representative, Marianne Flach noted that this project is an extremely important and timely intervention that will enable them to continue to pursue their goals, follow their dreams and living up to their full potential.

“UNICEF is currently supporting programmes in partnership with the Ministry of Education to ensure that all stakeholders have access to age-appropriate, gender and culturally sensitive comprehensive, life skills-based, sexuality education, at all levels of the education system,” she disclosed.  UNICEF is also supporting the strengthening of legislation and programmes for child protection and conducting a study on adolescent pregnancy in Guyana.

“These types of partnerships between service organizations and the private sector are becoming increasingly important if we are to consistently deliver on commitments to improve the lives of young people in communities all across Guyana,” Flach stated.