Thankfully, teen pregnancy rates in the U.S. have fallen in recent years — at least 42% since 1990. Not a bad start, but unfortunately, we still rank the highest among developed nations when it comes to young women under the age of 20 giving birth. This means that there are still millions of teen mothers struggling to balance motherhood, school and jobs, not to mention the infinite stresses that run rampant in any young adult’s life. Even those of us who aren’t adolescent parents ourselves feel the impact that teen pregnancy has on the national economy, which makes it clear that continuing to combat this — declining, yes, but still persistent — trend is in everyone’s best interest.
How shall we go about it?
Abstinence? Perhaps a good idea, but maybe a little too idealistic for the real world. By the time May rolls around each school year and the weather starts heating up, it only takes a quick glance into the hallway to realize that abstinence is not really the first thing on my students’ minds. And they’re only in middle school.
Contraception? Now we may be on to something, but it’s definitely controversial, and it still doesn’t really address the many different factors that contribute to teen pregnancy.
Enter Girls Inc. I stumbled upon a description of this organization’s efforts — specifically the branch that operates in Memphis, TN — while researching for another post, and was blown away by their action plan for reducing pregnancy among teen girls. Here are my top 5 reasons as to why they’ve got it right and others around the nation should be emulating them.
1. Filling a Void
There is, without a doubt, a lack of explicit instruction available for young girls regarding healthy female images and roles in relationships. This is dangerous for young women developing a sense of self. Think about it: if someone tells you something repeatedly, you’ll eventually start to believe it. On the flip side, however, if someone doesn’t tell you something — you’re strong, smart, and beautiful just the way you are, for example — you won’t believe it.
Not only that, but you’ll take your own steps and look to your immediate surroundings to fill in the gaps. Obviously, girls (and boys) learn from those around them. They turn to their friends, mothers, aunts, older sisters…basically every female they come in contact with on a regular basis to figure out how they should act and what their role is in their immediate surroundings. Unfortunately, they’re not always given the most ideal representation, and can unwittingly open themselves up to low-self esteem, exploitation, abusive relationships and risky behaviors that lead to teen pregnancy.
Consequently, it’s super important for programs like Girls Inc. to exist — especially in areas with high risk factors for teenage girls. Memphis seems like an ideal starting point, and this organization has been active there for more than 60 years. According to a report by the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, there are apparently 2,131 teen births per year in Memphis. Additionally, Memphis City Schools’ graduation rate is 60% with 4,109 drops outs — a significant number, especially since 30% of girls who drop out of high school cite pregnancy as the main factor.
Girls Inc. has attempted to remedy this by focusing primarily on helping girls ages 6-18 become confident, independent young women in addition to teaching them about sexual health. As you’ll see on the next page, they seem to have a pretty comprehensive way of going about it.
Read more: abstinence, Center for Research on Women, contraception, girls inc, high school dropout rate, National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, teen mothers, teen pregnancy, women's image in media
Photo Credit: lusi via stock.xchng
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