Adolescent Motherhood: Challenges and Lessons Learned for SRHR Advocacy

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By: Cecilia Garcia Ruiz, Gender Projects Coordinator, Espolea

Working on the phenomenon of adolescent and young motherhood requires a deep understanding of the various structural factors leading to early pregnancies and parenting. As my team and I have carried out our project, the first challenge we faced was the invisibility of teenage and young mothers as key populations within the country’s sexual and reproductive health policies.

What we learned from this was the importance of exploring the diverse realities of the adolescent and young mothers in Mexico, while contextualizing the strategies aimed at promoting and ensuring their sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR). An example is identifying potential protective (e.g. family and community networks) or risk factors (e.g. violence and exclusion) in an adolescent or young mother’s life that could enable or hinder her to overcome the economic, social, and cultural barriers they face to fully exercise their rights.

The time constraints experienced by the adolescent and young women to participate in our project was another major challenge we encountered. Traditional gender roles, the lack of male partners who were meaningfully involved in child-rearing activities, as well as weak family ties, appear to be among the main factors for low participation. Above all, adolescent mothers continue to be the most difficult to reach. Whether it is because they are still considered underage or because they are no longer seen as part of the youth population, the truth is that their SRHR continue to be systematically restricted.

Overall, what we have realized is that to be a fundamental part of the interventions focused on preventing early pregnancies and motherhood, we must also tackle their underlying factors by linking our initiatives to the individual, community, and structural and institutional levels. As our theory of change emphasizes, bottom-up interventions require catalyzing change dynamics among individuals, strengthening community networks and scaling up the activities carried out at this level, and fostering sustained transformations in the government bodies, especially those involved in the sexual and reproductive health policies.

These seed grants were funded by Johnson & Johnson and WomanCare Global via the Women Deliver C Exchange Youth Initiative

This post was cross-posted from the Women Deliver blog.

Also, read about the work the MHTF is doing in adolescent health in Mexico.