I recently read an article on child pregnancies in Latin America. A particular scenario which impacted me involved the disenfranchisement of a young girl; aged 13 who was raped by her school teacher. When the child’s mother found out about the fatal incident, she brutally beat her young daughter. After having cursed the young girl, she threw her into the streets with a warning to never show her face again. Her mum’s explanation for her heartless behaviour towards her daughter: how can I afford to feed another child? Now this poor child with no means of survival; turned to prostitution. Needless to say, her baby did not survive the birth. After the miscarriage this little girl resorted to roaming the streets, begging, pimping and selling drugs in exchange for food.
Luckily for this young girl her life did not have to end grimly. At age 15 she was discovered by an international child advocacy organisation. Having being helped by the organisation, the young woman went to stay at a school shelter, and now works in the field and is also a volunteer motivator for young girls.
The point of this piece is that millions of girls suffer the same indignation under arguably worse circumstances daily. Children having children must be halted. Think about it for a second: when a young girl, probably undernourished is made pregnant by her teacher, father, class mate etc. and forced to have the baby. The baby will undoubtedly be born underdeveloped and chronically undernourished in a web of poverty with no motherly compassion.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO) study from 2009, 16 million girls from the ages of 15-19 give birth every year, accounting for 11 % births worldwide.
Some might even argue that 11% is arguably a small percentage in the large frame of things. However, they fail to realize that as our world is further engulfed by heightened levels of violence, poverty, downward healthcare services and spiralling social norms; we should expect to see this percentage rise. Furthermore, expect to see numbers of children having children going up in developing countries. This causes for an alarming reaction by every individual in society.
Nonetheless, as governments become more corrupt and enflamed in economic and political turmoil, little attention will be drawn to the most vulnerable in our society. But we shouldn’t lose all HOPE.
Countless organisations such as the child advocacy organisation mentioned earlier, is doing excellent work on the ground, leading to bottom- up approaches to tackling this devastating reality. They should be applauded for their inspirational work, but at the same time we all should begin to think: How can I do my part in reversing this terrible evil?
We cannot save the world, but we can start to nurture new thinking to break the cycle of indifference and thus save another teenager girl by empowering her to empower her fellow survivors. Social innovation is the way forward. Stories like this should help us break the mole of convention and believe that our help also counts. These children need us and we need them.
By Charlotte Lazarus