A Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the Ministry of Social Protection and the Women Across Differences (WAD) will shortly be signed to conduct a field study and manage a programme for teenage mothers and fathers. The programme is expected to be initiated this year in the communities of Soesdyke/Linden and Wismar.
This announcement was made earlier this week by Minister of Social Protection, Ms. Volda Lawrence.
According to Lawrence, her Ministry has observed that the teenagers of the identified areas have specific challenges. She disclosed that in the majority of cases encountered, the teenagers lack parental supervision; parents are not equipped with coping skills and are unable to deal with issues. Added to this, there are runaway teenagers and the related sexual issues are a challenge for the society.
This is compounded by the type of response forthcoming from the police which is minimal, according to the Minister. She related, “Because they do not consider it a serious crime…these matters are inadequately dealt with.”
According to the Minister too, because authorities are not notified, there are instances where teenagers are ‘living home’ and still attending school.
Moreover, addressing the observed challenges that teenagers have been found to be involved in would require investment in training programmes for parents, as well as teenagers to sensitize them to the existing issues. This is according to the Minister, who emphasised the need to give emphasis to coping skills, building listening capacity and learning to reserve judgment.
“Teenagers always have a story to tell,” the Minister highlighted, as she urged parents to learn not to “Put down their teenagers, but to appreciate and compliment them, helping to build their self-esteem.”
She also spoke of the importance of using social media, ads and media houses to convey positive messages to teenagers about education, drugs, pregnancy, among other issues.
The Minister also spoke specifically about addressing the needs of teenage boys. According to her, the Men’s Affairs Bureau of the Ministry has initiated teen awareness campaigns in several communities, and has used talk shows to discuss issues such as suicide, domestic violence and sexual abuse. It is evident that much more has to be organized in the teens’ interest and “I have a few areas in which I would like to see investment.”
The Minister stressed the need for investment in education first and foremost. She emphasized the need for curriculum enhancement, “To include options such as electronics, IT- designing, clip art; opportunities to make use of their talents in the classroom and act as mentors to other students. In the long run this will help to stimulate their interest and encourage more participation.”
The provision of male-friendly playgrounds – punch bags, hoops – was also underscored by the Minister who pointed out that this measure could “Help to get rid of pent-up energy.” Added to this, she spoke of workshops focusing on the merits of furthering studies; types of jobs that are available, entrepreneurship, etc.
The Minister also recognized the importance of support groups in helping to address the challenges that teenagers face.
According to Minister Lawrence, investments in the areas earmarked by her Ministry are intended to help in the empowerment of teenagers. But according to her, “I would, however, like to emphasize the importance of the family unit. To my mind, it is critical that we invest in re-establishing the value of the family. Strengthening the family and ensuring stability are factors that will boost our teenagers’ morale.”
She added, “The divorce between parent and child is evident, the absent male contributing to a further disconnect and causing the economic pressures that some teenagers have to deal with from a tender age.”
The Minister underscored too, “The concept of the village raising the child and the support mechanisms that the extended family provided are past, and so our teenagers are left to their own whims, fancies and distractions.”
As such, she noted that it is opportune that teenagers are targeted.
“I am confident that a comprehensive Plan of Action with short and long term SMART goals involving our partners and stakeholders will be drafted after the brainstorming and deliberations,” said Minister of the WPD forum.
“Let us provide the right stimuli for our teens, let us try to find the appropriate responses that will develop their potential and ensure a quality of life that will lead to an empowered, sustainable future,” the Minister asserted.
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