16 and Pregnant
16 and Pregnant is not a reality tv show here. It’s real life. Right now 25% of the pregnancies are teenagers. 44% are women under 21. The repercussions in the community are obvious.
Teen pregnancies bring higher health risks for both the mother and child. The mother’s body is not ready for a pregnancy and she has higher risk of complications during childbirth. The child is more likely to be born with a low birth weight and join the ranks of the chronically malnourished children here. The mother is less likely to finish high school and less likely to overcome the cycle of poverty. She is more likely to stay here and have multiple children before her 20th birthday. Her children are more likely to live in poverty and become young parents. The cycle continues.
My introduction to teen pregnancy in Quisuarpampa was a house visit with the nurse during my first month here. The girl was 15 and 4 months pregnant. The boy was not in the picture. The girl’s mom was sobbing as we talked to her daughter about the signals of alarm during her pregnancy. Flash forward 6 months and the same girl is now 16, not studying because the director kicked her out for being pregnant, and struggling to take care of her infant.
Teen pregnancy doesn’t have to happen. One of the main project goals of the Peace Corps program is to work with adolescents to promote safe sexual behaviors. In Quisuarpampa it has been challenging because of limited support from the high school but recently we have been making progress. Pasos Adelante. Steps Forward.
Pasos Adelante is a group of leaders from the high school that I am training to be peer health educators. They learn about self-esteem, communication, values, decisions, teen pregnancy, STIs, HIV, domestic violence, and alcoholism, and talk about planning for their futures. I have 12 youth and we completed 7 trainings in November and December. When students return from their summer vacation in March I plan to finish the trainings, host a retreat with youth leaders from other communities, and start planning activities with the peer educators to share information with the rest of the youth in Quisuarpampa. There are a lot of challenges ahead but for the first time in Quisuarpampa we are talking about sex ed and taking steps forward.