One in three Jamaican women in the inner cities is pregnant; has an infant on her side or has a child less than five years old.
No – I have no scientific data to prove my claim; but – based on personal observations – I would not be surprised if I am bang on target.
This is something that I have been particularly concerned about for years. Primarily because these mothers are often unemployed and ‘single’, with little support from the ‘fathers’ and scarce means to provide for their young-ones.
Too many factors contribute to the phenomenon; but it is worth exploring a few:
Some women see their children as their pension – one of them will ultimately take care of them in their old age. There are others who believe that having a child for a man will help them to keep the man. Others believe that having a child for a man who has ‘means’ is one way of ensuring that they can benefit from child-support (invariably providing for themselves, as well as the needs of the child).
In the case of the men who ‘father’ the children; often times they insist on unprotected sex because they want it “natural” and – in truth – they really do not care if the woman gets pregnant because they have no intentions of honouring their responsibilities. Others insist on the woman having a child for them as a means (some how) of demonstrating her love for them.
The end result is that we have a lot of men who have ‘fathered’ many children; but have never spent a day being a ‘dad’. On the flip side, we have a lot of women who have many children for different men – with no paternal support.
Ultimately, we end up with many children who lack parental guidance, food to eat, proper shelter and good education. They are psychologically dysfunctional and emotionally lacking. Unfortunately, their means of survival or freedom – depending on the gender – is crime and violence or sexual promiscuity. The only problem is that – this merely perpetuates the cycle.
Yes, there are some who escape – enough even to make my comments a generalization. But there are too many who do not escape – to make my comments a glaring reality.
We may scoff at the anecdotal claim that one-third of our inner city women are pregnant, nursing an infant or caring for a toddler; and question just how that affects the ‘rest of us’? But, the truth is – it has a fundamental impact on ALL of us.
That boy, for instance, who just asked you for a ‘small change’ after he wiped your windscreen (although you insisted that he should not) could well be a direct by-product of that social phenomenon.
The teacher/student ratio in our Primary Schools – inching up to an appalling 1:60 (again – anecdotally speaking – although my nephew just told me that there are 77 students in his class) – could also be a by-product of this phenomenon. How can one teacher adequately prepare 77 students for higher (or any) education?
The rising levels of teenage pregnancy, crime and violence, truancy and the clogged Family Courts may also be attributed to this phenomenon.
On an even larger scale – the cost to the economy in education, health care, security and national development is tremendous.
What ever became of that National Family Planning Board campaign – “Two is better than too many“?
On the flip side, those who can afford it are (on average) having one child. They may not always provide the emotional care and nurturing guidance; but fundamentally – they provide education which is a primary means of upward social mobility.
As each sector repeats its own actions the cycle is perpetuated and the divide between the “haves” and the “have nots” widens. As the “haves” desperately seek to protect their territory; while the “have nots” yearn for more and conspire to get it.
In truth, there is not much that is new about this phenomenon. Unplanned and often – unwanted – pregnancies. Sex for sale – the children must be fed! Sex for hire – the man wants to prove his manhood! And, as the women do all they can to eke out a living and feed the children – the men gather on the corner to roll the herb in their hands – willing victims ready to be exploited by those who want to keep their hands ‘clean’ while perpetuating the most hideous wrongs.
How can we break the cycle? How can we bridge the divide? Who will speak to the women and assist in nurturing and instilling a sense of purpose? Who will tell them that it is not fashionable to be pregnant, with a child in hand and one at their feet – all of them hungry and no man/father around?
And who will tell the men (as my mother told me) that they “should look somewhere to put their heads, before they find somewhere to put their …”.
We need to find the means to curb and ultimately change this phenomenon; or we will continue to pay for it for generations to come.
Walk good, ’til next time …