Kingston, 29 November 2020 (JIS) - The Minister of State in the Ministry of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport, the Honourable Alando Terrelonge, is urging young people not to surrender to social pressure to become parents early, or to have children by a certain age, to fit in with society’s expectations.
Instead, he is encouraging them to empower themselves and to ensure that they wait until they are mentally, financially and emotionally ready to become a parent.
“We need our young men to understand that having a child at 18, 19 or 21 does not make you a man, what makes you a man is focusing on your education and putting yourself in a position where you can take care of a family and that is what makes you a woman as well,” Mr. Terrelonge said.
He was speaking at the virtual staging of the Women’s Centre of Jamaica Foundation (WCJF) annual Pamela McNeil lecture on November 27, which was held under the theme ‘Adolescent Pregnancy: Reducing the Rate within the Context of the COVID-19 Pandemic’.
Mr. Terrelonge stressed that too much pressure is being placed on young people to engage in sexual activities at an early age and to become parents.
“At some point, we have to realise that there is something wrong with that aspect of the culture that seeks to call our young women mules and our young men gelding…. that needs to change,” he stated.
He however noted that the work undertaken by the Woman’s Centre has been very instrumental in helping to change these stereotypes.
In addition, Mr. Terrelonge said he will be advocating for more funding for the Foundation, which will enable the organisation to go into more communities with their intervention programmes.
“The work that you all do is phenomenal and I will certainly recommend for greater funding so that we can do more work in communities to raise the awareness of the difficulties, the challenges and just the importance of waiting,” Mr. Terrelonge said.
Meanwhile, the State Minister is calling for an initiative similar to the ‘Two Is Better Than Too Many’ campaign to be rolled out, to encourage youth to wait and not participate in sexual activities until they are ready.
“Certainly nobody is telling anybody that they can’t have six children [or] seven children. What we are saying is have the number that you can afford, not just financially but emotionally as well and in terms of your time,” he explained.
For more than 40 years, the Women’s Centre of Jamaica Foundation has been a ray of hope for teen mothers across the length and breadth of Jamaica.
Through the Programme for Adolescent Mothers, offered at the WCJF’s main office in St. Andrew, and through outreach stations across the island, the young women benefit from academic instruction in a number of subject areas in order to reintegrate them into the formal education system.
More than 49,000 adolescent mothers have benefitted from the programme which combines academic, counselling, and skills training.