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By Sharmain GraingerWhile some of us may have the luxury of having caring arms to run to in times of distress, there are others who are less fortunate, to an extent that they are neglected and even viewed as outcasts of society.WAD Coordinator, Clonel Samuel-Boston (second from right), and other staffersThese oftentimes are the young among us – teenage girls in particular – who become pregnant because of acts of immaturity and are even at times taken advantage of, but yet are subjected to rejection within the environment they exist.And so it was in light of the need for not only the protection, but also the empowerment of females in general, that Women Across Differences (WAD) was established in 1996. The Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO) was however officially launched in March of 1999 under the Companies Act of Guyana. It was driven by several outstanding women, the likes of Dr Janice Jackson, Patrice La Fleur, Andaiye and Ameena Gafoor, among others.Although she was not involved from the inception, Clonel Samuel-Boston, who currently holds the position of Coordinator of the NGO, recalled that its introduction was crystallised during a poverty reduction conference at the Pegasus Hotel.At that forum, the visionaries decided that there was a need for a platform from which to discuss issues concerning vulnerable women.“From what I was told they were meeting from time to time at different locations and they were calling the group at that time ‘Women Thing’…” Samuel-Boston recalled.The group was later formally established with a new name – Women Across Differences. And the intent was to have an avenue for women of any level of society, age, ethnicity,Cheap Jerseys From China, political affiliation, to vocalise matters of concern to them. The premise of the group was in fact to empower women through access to social and economic resources.According to Samuel-Boston, the group has over the years considerably expanded, so much so that it has impacted women in a number of communities across Guyana.Several teenage mothers gaining the support of WAD attend the launching of the UNFPA Report last week.But though women were noticeably benefiting from the empowerment programme offered by WAD, it was recognised that more could and should be done to further propel women, particularly younger women.Moreover, in 2008, WAD, in collaboration with the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), implemented a pilot project to reduce unplanned pregnancies among adolescent girls. Samuel-Boston recalled that at the time, the focus was on girls between the ages of 15 and 19. The target was 25 teenage girls drawn from Georgetown and its environs.The WAD Coordinator related that a snowball method was utilised which was characterised by house-to-house visits to find these girls. This move was in fact guided by a baseline study which was earlier conducted by UNFPA that sought to shed some light on the needs of teenage girls, and by extension, the way forward in terms of creating a programme especially for them.The study was quite revealing and informed WAD that many of these girls, some even as young as 12,Cheap NFL Jerseys China, were desperately in need of support,Cheap NFL Jerseys China, as some were victims of rape, committed by persons thought to be trustworthy, including relatives and close family friends.  Some of them were not even being supported by family members, because of their pregnancy, and were therefore forced to fend for themselves and young children.A programme to support these vulnerable teenagers was soon successfully implemented by WAD, catering to their needs, in terms of upliftment, through strategic training programmes that not only seek to foster personal development, but also to enlighten them about the importance of sexual reproductive health.Entrepreneurial development was also seen as a major area to facilitate empowerment of more than 100 teenage mothers, most of whom hadn’t family and even partner support. “We also incorporated some basic aspects of functional literacy, because of the fact that we are sending our girls back to school and we need to make sure where they are in terms of their academic level,” said a passionate Samuel-Boston,Cheap Jerseys Wholesale, who is a qualified Social Worker.In addition to her expertise, WAD utilises the efforts of one other full-time staffer and that of volunteers. However, there are plans being streamlined to gain additional support from CUSO International, a Canada-based Volunteer organisation.WAD’s operation is centred at 34 Anira Street, Queenstown,Wholesale China Jerseys, Georgetown, where training and counselling are held for the teenage mothers who attend sessions with their babies.And even as WAD prepares to graduate its fourth batch of teenage mothers next month, the Coordinator disclosed that there is much to be proud about.She disclosed that some of the girls have not merely settled for the fundamentals, in terms of their academics, but have moved on to the tertiary level, in some cases the University of Guyana.“These were girls who were very shy and thought they had nowhere to go…They thought that their situation was the end of their lives. But after coming here (WAD) their whole attitude and thinking process really changed…” Samuel-Boston asserted.“They can now identify with what they want and are able to go after their goals…not all of them are education-inclined, but some are definitely developing their own businesses.”However, she explained that at least 50 per cent of the teenage girls opt for furthering their education after their encounter with WAD, even as she boasted that the overall success rate of the programme as it relates to reducing unplanned pregnancies is 90 per cent.“Ninety per cent of our teenage mothers have not had a second pregnancy…and that makes this programme very successful for us…” Samuel-Boston said.In order to achieve the reduction in the rate of teenage pregnancy,Wholesale NFL Jerseys, the girls enrolled into the WAD programme are introduced to family-planning methods and they are closely monitored. This, according to the Coordinator, is one of the key factors in reducing unplanned pregnancy and has also helped to build their self-esteem and empowerment competence as well.“Our girls can stand up at different forums and represent themselves…We have had our girls go to Mexico, Jamaica and Dominica…We have had them participate in Youth Parliament and other workshops and seminars, and they are able to really advocate for what they want to see happen.”Although constrained by some shortcomings, including cramped operating space in Queenstown and the need for further collaboration with agencies such as the Ministries of Health and Human Services, Samuel-Boston is confident that “we (WAD) are indeed doing a good job and the programme is very effective. We are grateful to UNFPA for giving the girls another chance”.The work of WAD was amplified on Wednesday when the UNFPA launched its State of the Population Report which gives much focus to combating the challenge of teenage pregnancy.
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