teen pregnancy Philippines Jonas Gratzer/LightRocket via Getty Images

Saving Children from Having Children

For many adolescent girls in countries like Guyana, pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases are significant obstacles to empowerment. The solution lies in changing how young people are educated about sex and ensuring that they have access to contraception.

GEORGETOWN, GUYANA – My country is overwhelmed with teen pregnancies. In 2013, the United Nations Population Fund estimated that Guyana had the second-highest rate of adolescent pregnancy in South America and the Caribbean, with 97 of every 1,000 girls between the ages of 15 and 19 giving birth. Five years later, little has changed.

Today, some 42% of Guyanese young people are sexually active, 29% do not use condoms during sex, only 15% say they are familiar with birth-control methods, and 56% of sexually active young people have contracted a sexually transmitted infection. Furthermore, 12% of Guyanese girls have sex before their 15th birthday, and 62% say they have an unmet need for contraception.

When adolescents cannot obtain condoms and other forms of birth control, the rate of unplanned pregnancies increases, health outcomes suffer, and young people are unable to reach their full potential. To avoid these trends, and to reverse them where they exist, countries must strengthen their health-care systems and ensure that every teenager has access to sexual and reproductive-health services.

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