Georgetown, Guyana — (June 18 2018) First Lady, Mrs. Sandra Granger, today, encouraged policy-makers and educators to uphold and protect the rights of children, especially adolescent mothers who have suffered sexual abuse. The First Lady made these statements at over the handing over of the National Policy for the Reintegration of Adolescent Mothers in the Formal Education System at the National Centre for Education Resource Development (NCERD), Battery Road, Georgetown.

“We have to speak of these things and see it as violence against our children. We also have to… ensure that their rights are recognised and upheld; that our legal and our social protection agencies protect these children with the full majesty of the law… the children come first and it is their future that we have to ensure… That is enshrined in our Constitution,” she said.

The First Lady also called for a more aggressive approach to health education for both sexes which, she said, should start in the home. “We have to have equal responsibility… The girls do not impregnate themselves so… young men… have to take up their responsibility… This links… with comprehensive health and family life education throughout our school system, which should begin, I think, from nursery. Too often, I think, our parents believe [that] our teachers alone, our education sector, must be responsible for educating the children. Parents also have a duty to make sure that children learn responsible behaviour in society,” she said.

The National Policy for the Reintegration of Adolescent Mothers in the Formal Education System was produced by the Ministry of Education with financial and technical assistance provided by the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF). The policy was formulated bearing in mind the rights of adolescent mothers to access good education, quality health care, and information on sexual and reproductive health, while providing a discrimination and harassment-free environment in order to reduce the occurrence of adolescent pregnancy.

Minister of Education, Ms. Nicolette Henry said that while the formulation of the policy is a significant first step, but noted that there is still much more to be done to protect the rights of adolescent mothers. “I see this as the beginning of the journey to ensure that all adolescent mothers are protected by right and supported by the legal framework. With this policy, the work begins to out all the necessary recommendations and mechanisms in place to support out young mothers… Adolescent pregnancy cannot and must not be the future that we prepare for our daughters… We must act now to ensure a better tomorrow for them, for their families, for their communities, and for this country. As a Government, our motto is that ‘every child matters’. With this policy there will be no need to repeat the past because the future for adolescent mothers in Guyana will become bright… The barriers that prevail will be a thing of the past,” she said.

UNICEF Representative, Ms. Sylvie Fouet said that the policy uses a holistic approach to adolescent parent education in order to bring Guyana close to achieving the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). “This policy has two interesting factors… The Policy will ensure the teen mothers will [be] given an opportunity to go back to school and receive support at home and within the community… The policy will also allow for teen fathers to engage, encourage, and complete school, [and] take [on] the role [of] ‘super-dad’ and the responsibility [of fatherhood]… We fully support the right of every child to critical information, skills, and a conducive environment [in] which they can grow and [achieve] their full potential… It is part of achieving the SDG… where there is a commitment to leave no one behind,” she said.

Chief Education Officer (CEO), Mr. Marcel Hutson spoke on the timeliness and necessity of the policy. “I believe this policy’s… time has come… It seeks to outline the roles and responsibilities of various stakeholders that will influence the prevention of school-aged pregnancy… I don’t want us to leave here believing that this policy is just designed to offer a way for those persons who might become pregnant as teenagers, but it also attempts to prevent persons from becoming pregnant… and increase the number of adolescent mothers who re-enter the formal school system to complete their secondary education,” he said.

The policy was formulated through numerous consultation meetings in held across Guyana and interviews with various stakeholders across sectors. The Handing over Ceremony was attended by representatives from the Ministry of Education, UNICEF, and sixth grade students and teachers from the F. E. Pollard Primary School.

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