Underage moms and health education

underage moms and health education Romania has one of the highest proportions of teenage mothers in the European Union.

Becoming a parent, one of the most important events in a person's life, should be - and most of the time is - a moment of true joy. It's also a decision that brings along changes for which parents must be prepared. This is not the case, however, with teenage mothers in Romania, which has one of the highest figures in this respect. According to EUROSTAT, in 2016, 14% of first-time moms were under the age of 20. In 2015, also according to EU statistics, more than 350 of the women who gave birth that year were aged 10 to 14, and another 12,800 were aged 15 to 19. Behind these figures there are real lives, which are denied a natural course of development and are often subject to public condemnation. Such cases of children with children have impressed the Romanian director Ozana Nicolau, who wrote and directed a play titled "Foreplay", based on her own recollections. Here is Ozana Nicolau:

"The core of this show is extremely personal. It's actually about my childhood, in the 1990s, somewhere on the outskirts of Bucharest, where I met a lot of teenage moms. I had school colleagues and neighbours in that situation. The story was most of the time the same: the girl would get pregnant, would not dare tell her parents, so only some colleagues and friends knew about it. And I'm speaking of 6th to 8th graders, in 1996-1998. At some point, when the pregnancy became visible, they would disappear from school or from the playground. I can only assume that the solution was for them to be sent to the countryside or to a smaller town. But it was a huge disgrace, it was unacceptable for a girl aged 13 or 14 to be pregnant and stay in school. It was inadmissible."

Besides school drop-out, which blocks women's access to decent jobs, teenage mothers are also subject to social stigma. For her play, Ozana Nicolau talked to more than 30 girls that had got pregnant. Some of them told her that their peers believed they made a mistake. And this is how some of these mothers get to see their own child as a mistake. Ozana Nicolae:

"To them, the joy of becoming a mom turns into a burden. Being a parent is in any circumstance a difficult experience, full of challenges. So when this happens at the age of 14 or 15, when you are not really defined as a person, you cannot be responsible for yourself, let alone for another human being. So, an inner conflict emerges, and adding to that is people around you, pointing the finger at you for making such a big mistake."

Another thing that the artists working on the "Foreplay" project found out was that the teenage mom phenomenon cannot be strictly linked to a precarious economic situation, because such cases are reported among all social categories. Here is Ozana Nicolau again:

"This is rather related to our past. Romania still carries the burden of sexual taboos, it is still very difficult for us to talk about such matters. Sexual education is scarce in schools, as it is at home. That is the real problem."

Still, as of 2004, the public education system has introduced an optional course titled "Education for Health". The program is available to children from the 1st to the 12th grade, and the subject matter is taught in schools by biology teachers or educators, following a special training. One of the organisations that have provided this type of training is the NGO "Youth for Youth". The course starts with an introduction into hygiene and environmental protection, and then focuses on reproductive health and family. All these concepts are taught in keeping with the children's age, as Adina Manea, the director of the foundation "Youth for Youth" told us. In the 2014-2015 school year, 6% of the total number of school children benefited from the courses provided under the "Education for Health" programme.  Adina Manea told us how many schools in Romania chose to teach that optional course:

"Data provided by the Ministry of Education show that, in the 2017-2018 school year, some 3,500 schools registered for that optional. This accounts for 6-7% of the total number of pupils in the pre-university system. It's a lot for an optional course, but not enough if we think of the Romanian students' needs, irrespective of their age."

Civil society militates for a broader access of the population to this type of education, but not necessarily through school because part of the young women who become mothers are no longer enrolled in the national education system. Other factor are at play in this case, such as the early school dropout rate, which is quite high in Romania. However, universal access to reproductive health is necessary, according to Adina Manea:

"We are talking about 10% of the total female population. This is quite a lot, because teenage pregnancy entails other health risks for both mothers and new-borns. During a school year, full term pregnancy is only reported for 2 girls per school on average. What is clear is that school helps them complete their education if they want to. Teenage pregnancy is no longer a stigma, but at the same time the topic is never discussed. As far as the school colleagues and friends are concerned, things are different from one case to another. In the cases that our association is familiar with, the babies were kept and raised by the family. Given that we work mostly in high schools, we are talking about teenagers who have the financial means to reach this level of education and who benefit from the support of their families."

Family support is extremely important, director Ozana Nicolau agrees:

"If they are lucky enough to be in a family whose members are emotionally balanced, who understand what the girl is going through and who give her emotional support, then things get settled in about 2 years. I knew a girl in Vaslui, a mother in her turn, who finished high school, passed the baccalaureate exam with a very good grade, went on to university and is getting a scholarship. So anything is possible, if the family supports the girl and if her partner is also close to her."

"Foreplay" has been warmly received by the public. Parents who had come alone to see the performance later talked about it to other parents or brought their teenage children to see it. The play will also be performed in high schools in Bucharest and in schools near big cities.

Publicat: 2018-09-19 11:51:00
Vizualizari: 1328