This is how Soacha managed to reduce the teenage pregnancy rate below the national average

Pregnancy at a young age is one of the situations that most affects children and youth in Colombia. According to data recently released by the National Administration for Statistics (Dane), 54 out of every 1,000 women aged 15 to 19 and 2.2 out of every 1,000 girls aged 10 to 14 became mothers in 2020. An alarming record, considering the consequences that this phenomenon represents, not only for overcoming intergenerational poverty, but also for the overall development and mental health of this part of the population.

This situation is particularly alarming for girls under the age of 14, as it shows the enormous vulnerability that girls have in the face of abuse and sexual violence that usually occurs in their family environment.

Although childhood and adolescent pregnancy has always existed in Colombia, it was only in the 90s that we began to study its roots and consider this phenomenon as a socio-economic and public health challenge. Both the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and Profamilia and the Group on Family and Sexuality of the Universidad de los Andes have highlighted in their studies the multifactorial origins of early pregnancy, which is why one of The main recommendation is to consider this situation based on the particularities of the context.

With the Soacha Healthy City strategy, workshops on sexual and reproductive health were held in ten points of the city, which facilitated access to long-term planning methods for girls and women of reproductive age in the municipality. – Photo: Getty Images

In my experience as an educator in the sexual citizenship program, we were able to reduce the number of teenage pregnancies by 70 to 0 at Gerardo Paredes School in the city of Suba, Bogotáwe were able to establish that comprehensive sexuality education with a rights-based approach and a strong intention to attack gender-based violence allows children and adolescents to acquire better skills to make informed and responsible decisions about their bodies and sexuality .

It also contributes to the understanding of women’s right to enjoy their pleasure, to overcome beliefs, fears and prejudice against sexual and reproductive health and the appropriate use of methods of fertility regulation. For this to be possible, cross-sectoral interaction with the health system is essential to ensure access to and effective exercise of sexual and reproductive human rights.

This is exactly what the municipality of Soacha recently achieved. On the one hand, they are betting on the creation of Lily Classrooms, a space located in the educational institution Ciudadela Sucre, which aims to offer sexual education without prejudices and taboos, which provides children and young people with better tools to carry consensual, pleasurable and responsible sexuality.

Second, with the strategy The “Soacha Ciudad Saludable” sexual and reproductive health sessions were held in ten locations which facilitated access to long-term planning methods for girls and women of reproductive age in the municipality. The initiative guarantees this right to migrant women as well.

These joint actions between health and education have enabled the municipality to reduce the birth rate for girls aged 10 to 14 from 2.3 per 1,000 in 2013 to 0.8 in 2021. Likewise for adolescents aged 15 and 19 years rose from 79.3 per 1,000 in 2015 to 30.0 in 2021.

This achievement places the municipality below the national average, which indicates important progress in public health. However, it is essential to give comprehensive attention to sexual abuse and violence against children and adolescents, a situation that has increased by 9.5 percent across the country. A challenge that, in the short and medium term, the municipality of Soacha, led by its mayor Juan Carlos Saldariaga, will be able to successfully cope with if it takes advantage of teamwork and everything learned to reduce early motherhood and fatherhood.

Everything adds up

According to Profamilia, the subcutaneous implant is a modern method of contraception that can last between three and five years, depending on the type chosen. “It consists of one or two short, thin sticks about the size of a matchstick that are implanted in a woman’s upper arm and release a hormone called progestin that thickens cervical mucus, preventing sperm from reaching the egg and reducing ovulation frequency”, assure this private non-profit organization that promotes respecting and exercising the sexual and reproductive rights of the entire Colombian populationa. In Soacha, more than 2,300 women have benefited from subcutaneous implant placement sessions promoted by the municipal administration through the Ministry of Health:

  • 810 implants in women between 15 and 19 years old
  • 730 implants in women aged 10 to 14
  • 405 in women aged 20 to 29 years
  • 416 in those over 30 years of age

* Doctor of Education, teacher at the Secretariat of Education of Bogotá.

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