A real tragedy Editorial
Stabroek News
January 6, 2007

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News that a newborn baby girl had been allegedly abducted from her mother was a talking point over the past week. It was well ventilated by the man/woman in the street. However, the revelation that the mother of that babe is a mere 13 years old seems to have shocked most people into silence.

Or could it be that people are so caught up in the various conspiracy theories that abound about the alleged abduction that they have failed to take note? While this boggles the mind, it is preferable to the other option: that they have noticed but have decided that being a mother at 13 years old is no big deal.

At a glance, the photo in the newspapers of a chubby-faced little girl with her hair in ratty cornrows clutching a newborn bundle would have given one the impression that she had been abducted or was the witness to the alleged crime. It would have sunk in, though, when it was revealed that the mother of the so-far unnamed, unregistered baby was 13-year-old Shevonne Green.

Apart from two letter writers advocating that the father of the baby be charged with statutory rape, the silence on the issue has been deafening. Granted, the alleged abduction is still sub judice, but while the court deals with that, what of Shevonne Green? Have any social services organisations or agencies, or women's and child rights groups and advocates stepped up on her behalf? Because while a rape charge ought to be levelled at the father of her child, if he is old enough and if he can be found, Shevonne Green herself clearly needs help; she is not the average 13-year-old.

The average Guyanese 13-year-old girl is in first or second form in high school. She may still be prepubescent. She would have just tipped over to the teenager side. Some 13-year-old girls still sleep with their dolls and stuffed toys, read the Nancy Drew and Goosebumps series and have not yet discovered romance novels, much less romance. Some are not yet bold enough to wear makeup in public and still blush when boys notice them.

Not Shevonne Green. She has been forced into womanhood even before her childhood ended. Depending on when she turned 13, she may well have become pregnant at 12 years old. Shevonne Green ought to have been in secondary school with other 13 year olds dealing with only such complex issues as Science, Mathematics, Geography and other subjects she might not have been exposed to in primary school. Instead, she was in hospital, in labour and had a baby by Caesarean section on Christmas Eve. If this is not a tragedy, then what is?

What kind of a life is that? Did she even write the Secondary Schools Entrance Examination last year? What school did she attend, if she attended school? When did she drop out? Does Guyana still have school welfare officers? Who checked on her when she stopped showing up at school? Who cares?

And what will become of Shevonne Green once all the present hubbub surrounding her baby dies down? It is likely that she will simply return to her home in North Sophia and possibly have more children by men who absent themselves once they learn that she is pregnant. It is possible too that 13 years from now, the daughter she gave birth to just over a week ago, may be in the same situation she is in today. This should not be, but it will continue unless and until measures are put in place to safeguard our children.

This ought to be tackled as a joint initiative by the ministries of Education, Human Services and Social Security and Culture, Youth and Sport. President Bharrat Jagdeo has indicated that there is to be massive spending in the social services this year. Let us hope that a great deal of this money goes toward the new Child Protection Agency. For all we know there may well be many other Shevonne Greens to be found, girls who have slipped through the cracks and who remain vulnerable and invisible because of poverty.