Messages and Talking Points Motherhood in Childhood: Facing the Challenge of Adolescent Pregnancy UNFPA State of the World

Population Report 2013 PROBLEM Motherhood in childhood is a huge global problem, especially in developing countries, where every year 7.3 million girls under the age of 18 give birth. • • Of greatest concern are the 2 million girls who give birth by age ! because they suffer the most dire health and social consequences. Traditionally, the blame for these pregnancies has been placed on the girls, and efforts to prevent these pregnancies have aimed at changing girls’ behaviour. ut we can’t solve this problem unless we change the actions of their families, communities and governments, too. !regnancy ta"es a toll on a girl’s health, education and rights and prevents her from reali#ing her potential. $t also ta"es a toll on the baby, the community and national development. %dolescent pregnancy is often a symptom of powerlessness, poverty, or abuse and the result of little or no access to school, employment and quality reproductive information and health care. y ignoring the behaviour of boys and men who often force or coerce girls to have se&, or of their communities, which tolerate gender'based violence and child marriage, we are complicit in perpetuating adolescent pregnancy.

"ON#E$UEN"E# (hen a girl becomes pregnant, her present and future radically change)rarely for the better. • %ll too often, a girl’s education will end, and her *ob prospects evaporate, while her vulnerabilities to poverty, health problems, social e&clusion and dependency multiply. +irls under 1, suffer the gravest long'term health and social consequences from premature pregnancy, including high rates of maternal death and obstetric fistula.


-inety per cent of adolescent pregnancies occur to girls who are married or in a union before 18 and who have little or no say in decisions about when or whether to become pregnant.

A"T%ON .-/!% is promoting a new comprehensive approach to tac"le the challenge of adolescent pregnancy that doesn’t dwell on changing the behaviour of the girl, but rather on changing the actions of the society she lives in. • (e need to help girls attend school and stay enrolled until at least 18 because education is one of the most effective ways of delaying marriage and pregnancy until adulthood. %nd after giving birth, we must return girls to school so they can get their lives bac". +irls don’t get themselves pregnant. oys and men must become part of the solution by curbing e&ploitation, abuse and sub*ugation of girls. 0ommunities must condemn child marriage and institute and enforce laws to ban it now)3&'((( gi)ls a)e still being *o)+ed into ma))iage e,e)y day, often to older men who often discard their victims after premature pregnancy ruins them physically. (e must tear down the social, economic and geographic barriers to girls’ access to information and services to enable her to ma"e choices to prevent pregnancy. (e must intervene in ways that help the most vulnerable, especially girls between 11 and 1,, who need support that builds their agency and protects their rights. $f we do a better *ob of upholding the rights of every girl and empowering her to e&ercise her rights, we can eliminate many of the conditions that contribute to adolescent pregnancy.

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Ot-e) .oints • • • +irls who have real choices in life and the power to shape their own destinies will choose a future that is not derailed by motherhood in childhood. +irls who are pregnant need support, not stigma. They need education, not re*ection. Our future generations need to be able to choose their own lives, not have them chosen for them.


3very year, some 7('((( adoles+ent gi)ls in de, +o/nt)ies die of complications of pregnancy and childbirth.