Home / View Point / Guest Columns / Demming: 3,777 teenaged pregnancies in past four years; and here’s why you should care…

Demming: 3,777 teenaged pregnancies in past four years; and here’s why you should care…

“The womb is the home of beginnings.”

Leroy Clarke, 2019

What kind of beginnings did 3,777 of our citizens experience between 2014 and 2018?

3,777 young women had children for whom they were neither psychologically nor financially prepared to nurture. 3,777 people have been born of trauma in a society which is already highly traumatised.

3,777… That’s the number of teenage pregnancies which occurred in Trinidad and Tobago during that period. All were unplanned.

Photo: A young mother and her baby.
(Copyright motherjones.com)

The Ministers of Youth Affairs, Social Development, Health, Education and Legal Affairs should all be having sleepless nights because they are collectively presiding over the nurturing of these citizens who are likely to become deviants unless there is a structured intervention. The real impact of this will be felt when the anger and disappointment explodes in a few years.

Some of us ask out loudly: “When and how did we become so angry and uncaring?” It began in the womb and was nurtured in a society which continues to ignore consequences.

This simple statistic can be extrapolated to tell a story of disruption for at least 10,000 people, if we consider the mother, the child and the caregiver for both. This figure only focuses on the young girl. It ignores the fact that an equal number of men and boys engaged in statutory rape without facing any of the consequences.

Why should girls this young face this challenge alone?

What is needed is a structured social intervention programme aimed at finding the fathers, providing the social counselling and or guidance and, where appropriate, laying charges of statutory rape. In every area, we appear to be avoiding having people acknowledge and pay the consequences for their actions.

I saw a sense of helplessness and/or blame shifting by the people before the Joint Select Committee; from the Chief Education Officer, the Permanent Secretary, the Director. They all appeared to be bewildered and there was no energy directed towards a solution.

Photo: A pregnant schoolgirl in USA.

They collectively indicated a business-as-usual attitude, mouthing the platitudes that the families are not cooperative and the police are doing what they can. That is just unacceptable because the lives of 3,777 young girls are being negatively affected. That is unacceptable because we have 28 agencies responsible for administering child care. That is unacceptable because your taxes and mine are being used in a way that is ineffective and wasteful.

What is the solution? The Minister of Youth Affairs must publicly champion this plague and declare a goal of reducing teenage pregnancy by as little as 10% by September 2020. The first action would be to rationalise the roles and functions of the 28 agencies which are currently responsible for administering child care.

This can be followed by bringing together representatives from business, government, education, the medical field, the faith community, law enforcement and other non-profits to create a focused, cumulative effort.  But none of this will work without the buy-in from young people and a softening of the hard attitudes about fornication and birth control.

Over the past five years, more than 13,000 people in this country graduated from UWI, St Augustine in the social sciences, so finding trained young people to tackle this problem cannot be difficult. What is needed is inspired leadership; people in power who are willing, able and inspired to tackle this thorny problem, unafraid to be pricked by the thorns and work with it until solutions are implemented.

3,777 people might have had better prospects in life if that kind of leadership existed.

Photo: A teenaged mother.

About Dennise Demming

Dennise Demming
Dennise Demming is an Adjunct Faculty Member at UWI, Media and Communications Strategist, TEDxPOS organiser and co-licensee for TEDxPortofSpain and Chairman of the Board at TTTHTI. Dennise, who grew up in East POS, also has a Business MBA and B.Sc. in Political Science & Public Administration and Mass Communications from UWI.

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18 comments

  1. There is likely a huge discrepancy between the support offered by those nations to mothers (of any age) compared to what is offered in our nation… I daresay this almost certainly impacts our crime levels (cf those nations) and the perpetuating of the teenage pregnancy problem – even without a socio-economic profile one can appreciate how that could happen…

  2. Here is the other issue, most of these pregnancies are not two teens in love who had sex. It’s OLDER MEN with teenage girls.

    Statutory rape laws are not being enforced.

  3. Here’s why you needn’t be too concerned: 3,777 girls between the ages of 13 to 19 between 2014 and 2018 is a large absolute figure, but there are about 59,000 females in that age bracket in T&T, which means that just about six percent of them have babies. That’s not a high rate of teenage pregnancy. In fact, it’s only about twice the Canadian rate and three times the Swedish one.
    The 1,395 men aged 20 to 30 years who were fathers in these cases is a useless figure unless we match the age of the fathers to the mothers. What we can say is that, of the 3,777 girls and women who had babies, 99 percent of them were over 16 years of age. That means that about 40 percent of them got pregnant for teenage boys. And, for all we know, most of the rest were in relationships where the man was three to 13 years older than them. But is it really justifiable to portray a relationship between, say, a 25-year-old male and an 18-year-old female as a man preying on a girl?
    Given that it is only a small percentage of girls who are having babies in their teens, the crucial question is whether that cohort has a particular socio-economic profile, since such a profile must be the starting point for policy responses. Unsurprisingly, though, that fundamental issue was not raised by Demming.

  4. We know what reduces teenage pregnancy. Sex education, easy, affordable access to contraception. But we won’t do any of that because we fraid girls will be “hot”

    • Ent. I think maybe we need to rebrand the term ‘sex education’.
      Maybe if class was called Physical Protection or something, parents would send their children.

    • You might be right. People don’t like the word sex at all. But the argument against vaccinating teens against HPV was not received kindly either and that was branded as cancer prevention. Sooo 🤷🏾‍♀️

    • Why is the talk always only about girls…. to make babies you need a man too…the problem is, they often disappear as fast as they came( pun intended). But boys need to learn their responsibility just as much as girls.

    • Frauke Lühning I agree 100% In fact, it is the male of the human species who are fertile 24/7 from puberty to death and can impregnate multiple women at a time.

      The female of the human species are only fertile 3 days out of the month, only till menopause and can only get pregnant for one man at a time and while pregnant is infertile.

      It is also the conventional wisdom that it is males more than females who pursue sex more often and from more than one at a time.

      It is also a statistical fact it is males who are most likely to commit sexual assault and rape.

      So really, the bulk of the responsibility lies with the gender most responsible for causing unwanted and teenage pregnancies- MEN.

      If it is not a man’s conscious intention to father children with mutual agreement with the woman/women he is with…if all he was after is some release, some pleasure, some fun, he has no business shooting active seed at all. Nor does he have to.

      Vasectomies!

  5. Earl Best

    Certainly one place to start is with your current Minister of Education who had been in the post less than a month when he first declared, good Catholic that he is, “There will be no sex education taught in our schools.”

    So rather than PROaction, expect continuing REaction at best.

    Decisions about 2018 realities, I fear, are being made by antediluvian dinosaurs.

  6. In a time where there is high unemployment, youth delinquency and crime…this is a massive and unfortunate statistic… both for the women involved and the children involved.

  7. Hear nah I doh know where to start with this so much to write so much to say . Doh think it have enough space