As I was reading the blog entry “Teenage Pregnancy: What to do about it”, I was brought back to a familiar place, a time when I became a young mother. Although I got pregnant with my son at 18 and was a junior in college, I still faced the same stigma and shame as Brianna. As a young woman born and raised in a developing country, though living in the United States, the social consequences of getting pregnant became real.

According to the World Health Organization, the vast majority of births that occur worldwide to girls aged 15-19 years old occur in low and middle income countries. The average global birth rate is 49 per 1000 girls among 15-19 years old with country rates ranging from 1 to 299 per 1000 girls. Often times, girls drop out of or are barred from school and are kicked out of their homes because of the stigma associated with becoming pregnant. Far too often teenage mothers are ignored and left to raise children by themselves with no support. Not being able to go to school leaves young mothers vulnerable to poverty, low self-esteem and lack of economic growth.

So, what do teenage mothers need?

Support – I was able to complete college and further my studies because of the support that I received from my family, friends and church. Support can come in different forms such as watching the baby while the mother does her homework or goes to school. They also need mentors who are willing to give their time to help in the development of themselves as adolescents and parents.

Advocates – Individuals and organizations that will increase the public’s awareness about the issues teenage mothers in developing countries face. They need people who will challenge existing policies that do not support them furthering their education.

Love – Teenage mothers need to know that they are still loved and that they matter. Girls in general already face many challenges and when a baby is added, the challenges become greater.

As a community, we must support our girls by encouraging them to reach their full potential. I urge you to increase awareness by reading more about this topic, finding ways in which you can help and sharing this information on your social media platforms. When we support our girls, we support our communities and our world!

Featured image: A portrait of Massa Foley and her daughter, Kona Taylor at the Liberia Government Hospital in Tubmanburg, Liberia on June 24, 2015. Photo © Dominic Chavez/World Bank

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