In a bid to reduce teenage pregnancies and raise awareness of the issue, the Family Resource Centre is giving talks at schools this month.
Some 50 women under the age of 19 give birth in the Cayman Islands every year, according to Miriam Foster, program coordinator of the Family Resource Centre.
“Those are live births, those figures don’t take into account the fact that teens who get pregnant are more at risk for health complications, or those who have these babies overseas,” said Ms. Foster, adding, “Even though abortion is not legal here, some teens do things to self-abort their babies, so it’s not the full picture.”
The teen pregnancy prevention and awareness campaign, called “I’m worth the wait,” aims to promote healthy sexual practices, education of sexual consequences, and to get teens critically thinking about their future.
“The first thing we want to stress is that this is not an abstinence-only campaign, as those programs have been shown to be ineffective. It’s about providing information to teenagers and to educate them about the consequences of sex,” said Ms. Foster.
On average, the Family Resource Centre assists some 20 to 30 young parents every year.
To tackle the issue on a greater scale, Ms. Foster said, a comprehensive sex education program needs to be integrated into the public school curriculum as “one-off sessions can only do so much.”
Ms. Foster said without the proper education, teens are not only at risk for teenage pregnancy, but also sexually transmitted diseases and emotional instability.
“The sad reality is that young adults will tell you that they often felt pressured their first time. Either pressured because they thought everyone else was doing it, or just being a teenager where their brain is actually seeking pleasure and social interaction. It’s been known that teens will engage in riskier behavior when they have more than one peer present,” said Ms. Foster.
This month, the Family Resource Centre will deliver presentations at John Gray High School and the Cayman International School.
“We are actually going into the schools and talking to students about being decision makers, showing them all the consequences of sex, both positive and negative,” said Ms. Foster. “To not just wait until the moment, but rather have a plan from beforehand, and showing some things you can do to avoid a situation where you may do something you might regret.”
For the teenagers who want to engage in sexual education, Ms. Foster said, the campaign will teach them how to use contraception effectively and minimize risk.
“The biggest downfall is ineffective use of contraception … It’s about moving away from trying to equate sex and love,” said Ms. Foster.
Parents can help prevent teenage pregnancy by communication and education, she said. “Start talking to your children about sex at a young age, so that they are more capable when they make the decision. If we never talk about it, then we set up our teens to make them vulnerable to sexually transmitted disease, pregnancies and lots of other issues, including drugs.”