There are a lot of drawbacks associated with having children young.
When you’re pregnant and you’re considered to be of ‘normal’ age people say congratulations, ask how you’re setting up the baby’s room, what the name may be. But when you’re young and you tell people that you’re pregnant, they ask ‘are you keeping it, how are you going to support it?’
There is a lot of stigma and stereotyping around young mums, that they’re single, that they’ve got multiple fathers to all their children or both partners are in school and do not have the financial backing required to look after a child.
You can’t deny that this is a problem in Papua New Guinea and certain vulnerabilities that young mothers have in such situations come down to a lack of social support.
Parents, neighbourhood organisations, schools, health providers, and youth agencies provide critical support in advocating the idea of abstinence and to follow such mainstream stereotype; finish school, get a job, buy a house, get married and then have children.
However, despite increasing awareness of the issue, there is still a lack of support.
The new era has seen more women empowerment programs, more small to medium enterprise (SME) programs and encouraging young women to finish school with scholarships.
What we lack is the appropriate program strategies and principles, to encourage young women with children to go back to school, to get a degree, to be better suited for this tough economy.
Activities should be relevant to young people and should reflect an understanding of and sensitivity to the racial and ethnic backgrounds of participants.
Communities may want to get involved with being advocates and encouraging young females to be involved in an array of activities including agency advisory boards, community outreach efforts and program planning and reviews.
Coordinate messages to target both young women and men. It is important to emphasise joint responsibility, sexual communication, assertiveness, and refusal skills. Either gender-specific or co-ed programs can reach both young women and men.
Offer long-term and consistent support is another. Programs should be tailored to individual participants. While some young people need little support to prevent a pregnancy, others will require more comprehensive interventions over a sustained period of time.
To be most effective, community-wide program efforts must be supported by expanded financial resources, increased public awareness, and the implementation of favourable policies at the national, state, and local levels.
It is important that we empower our young mothers, for they will empower the next generation to be better.