Nov 07, 2015 News
By Desilon Daniels
A 13-year-old girl walks into the Grove Health Centre, clearly unsure of what to do. She looks around and takes in everything around her but, before anyone could question her, she leaves.
However, she returns the next day. This time, she sits quietly in a corner, seemingly trying to muster some confidence. She is approached by the centre personnel, who gently ask her why she is there.
“By the fourth question – which was still general information – she breaks down,” recalled Dr. Oneka Scott of the health centre. “This very fragile female – yet a child in many ways – was abused and raped. Her mother had not the slightest notion about what was going on. But worse of all, this little fragile human being was ostracised by her older siblings who knew what was happening in the home. Her story broke our hearts, even more so when we realised she was pregnant.”
According to Dr. Scott, stories like these are far too common and therefore support groups for teen mothers are needed in every health care centre in Guyana.
And this might actually be a reality in the near future.
This is according to Shevon Lewis, Focal Point for Adolescent Health at the Ministry of Public Health, who shared this development during the annual general meeting of the Guyana Responsible Parenthood Association (GRPA).
She revealed that the ministry is looking towards organising a teenage pregnancy clinic and teenage pregnancy support group in each health centre.
“We know that many times when the teenagers go to the centres they are not treated with the most respect. Many of them are actually chastised and it’s not just by the persons who are at the centre but also by other patients attending the clinic.”
She said that it was therefore thought best to separate the teen mothers from the general population. In these private areas, the expectant young mothers would be provided with counselling and advice on family planning.
She revealed that a pilot of this setup was initiated in the Grove Health Centre last year and had been highly successful. She said that at this centre, not only was the teenage pregnancy clinic set up but a support group was also created.
“Even the pregnant girls who cannot be managed at the centre and have to be sent off to the Georgetown Public Hospital can come back and meet with their peers, discuss their experiences and how they have gotten over their difficulties,” Dr. Lewis explained. “We’re trying to take the model from Grove Centre and roll it out to the rest of the centres,” she added. She said too that the Ministry is open to suggestions to “achieve the common goal”.
One of the young women who benefited from the Grove Health Centre support group is 20-year-old Vidyamatie Persaud, who yesterday shared her harrowing tale of teenage pregnancy.
The young woman explained that things began going downhill after she dropped out of high school due to financial difficulties. She said though she returned just two weeks before her CSEC Examinations but she was forced to drop out again. She subsequently met a man who was 10 years her senior.
“My home was broken – my mom and dad got separated due to their issues – so I decided that I needed someone I could depend on and help my Mommy and myself,” she explained.
She said that she lived with this older man for eight months, who she referred to as her husband. However, the relationship was an abusive one. Her “husband” also drank too much for her liking. It did not help that his family did not approve of her youth, lack of education, and poor background.
“I had to endure beating at the hands of someone older than me but I stayed with him because I wanted a life,” she said.
However, things went from bad to worse when she decided to return to school. She recalls excitedly heading to Georgetown to purchase school items. During this trip, she did not realise that her partner was slowly drinking himself into a drunken rage, spurred on by his family’s claims that she had not gone to purchase school items but rather to meet another man.
She later returned home, where the older man proceeded to beat her. Things did not stop there; in a horrible twist of events, the man doused himself in kerosene before lighting himself afire right before Vidyamatie’s eyes. Though she tried to save him, he died in front of her.
“The only thing I could have done when he lit himself was to grab a sheet and wrap him,” the young woman said sadly. She said that she could not even attend the man’s cremation.
Vidyamatie subsequently learnt a few months later that she was pregnant. She shared that she decided to keep the baby since it was the only link to her “husband”. She said too that she did not believe in taking an innocent life.
“At the Grove Health Centre, we decided that teenagers needed special focus. We needed to bring them back to educate them; to debunk some of the societal norms, the stereotypical pictures painted. We needed them to understand the importance of the lives inside of them and what it all means after delivery,” Dr. Scott added.
“Being there, I was provided with the best support,” Vidyamatie said. She further encouraged young persons to take up educational opportunities. “The best thing to do is take your education and be what you want to be,” she stressed.
According to Lewis, the Ministry is also currently conducting a situation analysis of teenage pregnancy in Guyana. This analysis, she said, is in collaboration with the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and other organisations that are involved in teenage pregnancy reduction.
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