Teenage Pregnancy – Mock Council Forum
Good afternoon Mayor Mrs. Innes, Deputy Mayor Mr. Mayne, respected councillors, ladies and gentlemen and fellow students. I’d like to begin by thanking you for this opportunity to discuss a youth issue that is currently very relevant, and an issue that is close to my heart.
I, as a young woman myself, personally know 5 teenage girls aged 15 – 18 who currently mother children, one of whom is pregnant with her second child. I’ve seen the ways in which families can be broken apart and the physical, psychological and financial strain these young women face on a daily basis. Teenage pregnancy is an issue that has widespread implications for all parties, and it is particularly prevalent in our local community. I wish to implore council to shine a light on this issue locally.
Pregnancy is an extraordinary time in a woman’s life that should be beautiful and empowering, however due to the circumstance and stigma this is rarely the case for many teenage mothers. Young parents face the challenge of meeting not only their own developmental needs at a time of significant growth, but also the needs of their children. Parenting exposes these youth to significant life challenges that threaten their ability to achieve their full potential.
Teenage parenthood is associated with a number of adversities. For example, it is more likely to occur for young people from a low socio-economic background, who are under-achieving in their education, who misuse drugs and/or alcohol, or who engage in antisocial behaviours. In turn, young parenthood can act to further entrench some of these problems and perpetuate a cycle of disadvantage for both the young parent and their child that sadly, can become generational. Additionally, young parents often face substantial social stigma. Only one out of every five teen mothers receives any support from their child’s father, and about 80 percent end up on welfare. In fact, half of all current welfare recipients had their first child as a teenager.
In the Eurobodalla, the percentage of mothers who are teenagers has remained steady at around 7% over the last decade, against a decreasing NSW average of 2.7% in 2014. The decline in teenage pregnancies across the state has been attributed to the increasing popularity and accessibility of long-term contraception, including hormone-releasing devices implanted in the body that can provide up to five years protection. In order to lower the statistic in the Eurobodalla, I feel it is vital that we better educate young women on contraception and their options. I strongly believe that we need to be making these forms of contraception more easily accessible to young people, and informing them about the availability and easy access to sexual health care in our local community.
Upon researching, I found little to no information on the issues pertaining to teenage pregnancy or support for teenage mothers on the Eurobodalla Shire Council Website, so I think that’s a great place to start. When information becomes readily available, young adults are empowered to make choices that will ultimately shape their futures.
In August 2016, the Eurobodalla Youth Committee recognised this issue as important and raised money to fund new training resources to help young mums. It’s paramount that we keep raising and spending more money on initiatives like this that prove to be very beneficial in educating young mothers, and that we don’t allow them to slip through the system.
There are many ways in which we can address and tackle this multi-faceted issue, starting with implementing better support and networking for young mothers in our community. I implore council to liaise with local schools to discuss better education on contraception, and putting pressure on the continuation of schooling for young mothers.
The challenge for our community, for our policy makers and for our council is to decrease the number of unplanned teenage pregnancies through better education, and create a range of supports that respond to the needs of both young parents and their children. Thank you.