Girls and boys have the same rights, but they are not able to realise them to the same degree.
Many violations of children’s rights have their roots in gender-based inequality, exclusion and injustice.
For the Americas, Teen Pregnancy is one of our main focus. When a girl becomes pregnant, her present and future change radically, and rarely for the better. She cannot complete her education, her job prospects fade and she becomes vulnerable to poverty, exclusion and dependence.
When a girl becomes pregnant, her present and future change radically, and rarely for the better.
The need to address the issue of teenage pregnancy has been emphasized by the members of the CRC and CEDAW committees in their recommendations to the countries as well as in the monitoring reports of progress with key declarations.
Consistent with global trends, overall fertility rates have declined in recent years. However, Latin America and the Caribbean is the only region where fertility amongst adolescents has actually increased and where rates are currently amongst the highest in the world (72 births per 1000 women aged between 15 to 19 years) after sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia (108 and 73 births, respectively). Of the total of adolescent pregnancies, 20% are amongst girls under 15 years of age and the fertility rates amongst these youngest adolescents are projected to further increase.
The list of the 50 countries with the highest fertility rates among the world’s adolescents includes almost all the region’s countries, with Nicaragua, Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Honduras, Bolivia, Colombia and Ecuador having particularly high rates (Rico and Trucco, 2014).
Girls realizing their full potential
Compared to similar countries and considering the effect of various socioeconomic characteristics, the adolescent fertility rate in Latin America and the Caribbean is higher than expected. At the same time, significant differences exist within the region. Nicaragua, Dominican Republic and Guatemala had the highest rates of teenage pregnancy in 2010 in Latin America, with more than 100 births/1,000 women aged between 15 and 19 years; whereas Peru, Haiti and Trinidad & Tobago had the lowest, with fewer than 50 births per 1,000 women in the same age range.
It is estimated that up to 50% of these teenage pregnancies are unplanned. The vast majority of pregnancies of girls under 15 are believed to be the result of sexual violence and coercion. In all age groups, pregnancy rates are higher among girls from low-income, rural communities with reduced access to educational opportunities, including populations of African and indigenous descent.
In all cases, pregnancy has the potential to negatively impact the health and development of adolescents, thus increasing their social exclusion. The maternal mortality ratio amongst adolescents between 15 and 19 years is twice that for women over 20 years of age. For girls under 15, the rate is five times higher, and in both cases complications in pregnancy and childbirth are the leading cause of death.
For five years, Plan International in the Americas has organized the “Because I am a Girl” Photo Contest and Exhibition, where more than 1,000 photographers, amateurs and professionals from the region have participated. More information in www.porsernina2016.org.