• News

  • Sports

  • Health

  • Uncategorized

  • SOCIÉTÉ

  • In English

  • Opinions

  • POLITIQUE

  • ariel henry

Loading

News

1 / 1

global press journal: No explanation but all the blame: Young mothers plead for sex education in Haiti

  • April 2, 2024
  • 19
  • 10
global-press-journal:-no-explanation-but-all-the-blame:-young-mothers-plead-for-sex-education-in-haiti

(Anne Myriam Bolivar/Global Press Journal) No explanation but all the blame: Young mothers advocate for sex education in Haiti

Summary: Many teens and preteens who become pregnant think it’s the only way to prevent other girls from experiencing this life-changing surprise.

Reporter Byline: Anne Myriam Bolivar, GPJ Haiti

Photo Caption:Françesse, 14, who asked to be identified only by her first name, sits at home in Gressier, Haiti. Teenage pregnancies remain a concern in Haiti.

Photo Credit: Anne Myriam Bolivar, GPJ Haiti

Article

“This article was originally published by Global Press Journal »

GRESSIER, HAITI — When Françesse was 13, she had sex with her then-boyfriend, who was around her age. For two months she did not have her period. It wasn’t the first time her period was late. But something was different. Françesse, who, like other sources for this story, asked to be identified only by her first name for fear of stigmatization, was nauseated.

“I told my boyfriend, who asked me to wait. Then, after three months, I had other symptoms. I took a test which revealed that I was pregnant,” she said, her vacant gaze fixed on a busy road in this bustling district of the commune of Gressier, about 30 kilometers (19 miles) from Port- au-Prince, the capital of Haiti.

Françesse, now 14 years old, says her mother died when she was 3 months old. Her aunt took her in and her father paid her school fees. Although she had a high school education, she says she received no sex education at school or at home. In fact, she never thought she could get pregnant the first time she had sex.

“I did not receive specific information about pregnancy at school. We were not informed of what we should know through the courses on this subject which remains taboo, only skimmed over. We were asked to wait for the upper classes,” she says.

Françesse’s experience is not rare. Teenage pregnancies remain a concern in Haiti. There isn’t much recent national data, but according to a 2016-2017 survey by the Ministry of Public Health and Population, about 10% of young women aged 15 to 19 were pregnant or had already given birth. at the time of the investigation. According to the survey, Port-au-Prince recorded a teenage pregnancy rate of just 5%, but this rose to 13% in more rural areas and 14% in the Center and Grande departments. ‘Anse.

Anecdotal reports, according to a 2020 report by Banyan Global – a consulting firm – for the United States Agency for International Development, have also shown an increase in teenage pregnancies in Haiti since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. COVID-19.

Marc Deverson Beauvoir, coordinator of Koze Gresye, an association for young people, says that a survey carried out in 2022 in Gressier revealed that 3 to 4 out of 10 girls aged 12 to 17 had already been pregnant. He adds that the organization conducted a survey in 10 schools to understand the growing trend of teenage pregnancies in this region.

Rijkaard Fortuné, director of a school in Gressier, says that in 2022 and early 2023, his school recorded a dozen pregnancies among girls aged 14 to 16, a figure that exceeds the annual average of five in previous years .

Part of the problem, Fortuné and other sources interviewed by Global Press Journal, is that sex remains taboo in schools and local communities. This means that young people lack essential and accurate information to prevent early pregnancies.

“Some teachers sporadically address the subject in class to raise awareness among students, but this remains limited,” laments Fortuné.

Beauvoir says her organization’s 2022 survey found that due to a lack of sex education, some parents believe their children’s pregnancies are the result of voodoo curses, after malicious people have cast spells.

“Some teachers address the current topic sporadically to raise awareness among students, but this remains limited. »

RIJKAARD FORTUNE

DIRECTOR OF A SCHOOL

“We visited several schools, and none of them have sex education classes,” he says.

Etienne L. France is the departmental director of the West of the Ministry of National Education and Vocational Training of Haiti. He admits there are no formal sex education classes in the school curriculum, but he says that shouldn’t stop teachers from teaching students how their bodies work.

Joseph Job Maurice, general coordinator of Education and Quality at the Ministry of National Education and Vocational Training of Haiti, agrees, even if there is no formal program dedicated to education sexuality, teachers could take advantage of opportunities to teach this information, for example in biology classes. He adds that the ministry promotes a “skills approach” which encompasses three levels of knowledge: academic, practical and behavioral.

“A teacher can train a child to think about their body, about their sexuality,” he says.

The vicious circle of poverty

The country’s precarious situation marked by economic instability exacerbates the problem, according to Offny Dorvilier, a community leader from Gressier. He says that due to the economic situation, girls aged 13 to 15 are likely to be exploited to provide for the basic needs of many families.

“The precarious situation in the country sometimes pushes them to leave their homes under pressure from armed gangs, forcing them to live with foreigners or in centers,” he says. “Sometimes parents don’t even know where their daughters are. »

Meanwhile, Beauvoir says, teenage pregnancies exacerbate families’ economic difficulties. He says that in many cases, pregnant teenagers will drop out of school, hampering their education and career prospects, leading to a loss of earning potential. It also impacts parents who are already struggling financially.

When Françesse discovered she was pregnant, continuing her education was no longer an option. She knew she would be stigmatized.

“Almost all teachers will not tolerate this kind of behavior and it would be frowned upon by some students. The school would have to expel me. So to avoid scandals we stay at home,” she says. “I dreamed of becoming a nurse, but given my situation, it is unlikely that I will be able to continue my studies. »

Rose Derline Lindor is a community health worker working in the field of sexual and reproductive health in Gressier. She believes that adolescent girls do not yet have the maturity to take on the responsibility of raising a family. They are also not economically prepared.

“Without education and a profession, I don’t think they will have a job, and most of these girls are languishing in poverty, with two or three children to support,” she says.

In some cases, families can force them to have an abortion, which is illegal. She thinks this puts their lives in danger. Those who reach the end of their pregnancies also experience risks to their physical and mental health, says Lindor. Complications such as hypertension, hemorrhage and preeclampsia could endanger their lives and those of their unborn children.

Educate parents

For Fortuné, a big part of the challenge is that parents aren’t equipped, because they also never had the opportunity to learn about sex education in school. He believes that the Ministry of Education should introduce a compulsory sex education program taught by competent professionals.

Like Fortuné, Jonel Bazelais, sociologist in Gressier, sees the need for sex education campaigns that target not only adolescents but also their parents. Encouraging young girls to continue their studies and establishing a social program to support parents in precarious economic situations are also measures that the government could consider.

But Marie Claudette Louis, coordinator of the women’s union for the development of Gressier, believes that some parents could show reluctance.

« [Ils] are reluctant to use contraceptives such as pills, fearing harmful effects on the health of their daughters,” she says. “They often have a hard time accepting that their children have sex. »

Denise Louis-Jean, mother of three daughters, including two teenagers, is one of these reluctant parents. Although she believes this information is important, she believes it should only be available when young people are mature enough. According to her, broaching this subject with children aged 13 or 15 would only encourage them to engage in sexual experiences. Louis-Jean is concerned about the introduction of contraception to girls at such a young age and its effects on their health.

For Vanessa Marcelin, who became a mother at the age of 12, sharing her experience was a way of approaching the subject. Today, the 25-year-old leads a group of teenage girls where she provides them with advice on how to avoid early pregnancy.

Unlike many girls in Haiti, Marcelin was fortunate to benefit from the unconditional support of her family, which allowed her to continue her studies and enter university. “I am aware,” she says, “that not all the young girls who were in my school at the time benefited from these same opportunities. »

But fear of stigma remained a problem, so her parents isolated her until the baby was born.

“It is common here to find that when a young girl of my age is pregnant, she cannot attend school until close to giving birth, and sometimes we have to change schools or areas,” says- She.

“If the school doesn’t do it [et] families don’t do it, this problem will persist. »

VANESSA MARCELIN

Like most sources interviewed by the Global Press Journal, Marcelin believes that investing in sex education, and not just in schools, is the only way to solve the problem. “If the school doesn’t do it [et] families don’t do it, this problem will persist. »

Françesse, who gave birth in December, says she cherishes her child like a precious gift and feels ready to give him all her love. It helps that she has the support of her child’s father.

Gazena, 14, only found out about her pregnancy after three months. “I realized I was pregnant when my period stopped,” she says.

She is the youngest of a family of five children and lives in the suburb of Gressier. She says no one taught her how how pregnancy happens and how to prevent it.

“The problem is that nothing is explained to us. We only notice the transformation of our body, we are not told what to avoid, we only wait for it to happen to reprimand us,” she says.

When Gazena’s parents found out she was pregnant, they kicked her out of their home. Now her boyfriend’s family takes care of her. But Gazena has no plans to stop school.

“After weaning my baby, I plan to return to school and I would like to implement a method of contraception in order to avoid another early pregnancy. »

Anne Myriam Bolivar is a journalist at Global Press Journal based in Goma, Democratic Republic of Congo.

“Global Press Journal is an international, award-winning, nonprofit publication that employs local women journalists in more than 40 independent news outlets across Africa, Asia and Latin America.”