Thirteen-year-old mother offered second chance

Stabroek News
January 14, 2007

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The 13-year-old mother who made the news two weeks ago when her five-day-old baby was kidnapped is being offered a second chance as efforts are being made to have her admitted to a school where she will be taught a trade so as to be able to provide for herself and child in the future.

Counselling is also on the cards for young Shevonne Greene and she will be given public assistance by the government's welfare agency. Several private individuals have also offered to assist her in whatever way they can.

It was on Christmas Eve day last year that the teenager gave birth to the baby girl by way of caesarean section. But Greene's unfortunate situation began nine months prior while she was attending a city school. She met a 16-year-old boy, had sex and before long she was pregnant. Her family found out about the pregnancy when she was two and a half months along.

Terminating the pregnancy, relatives said, was deemed too risky. Given Greene's age and underdeveloped body, she ran a high risk of dying, they told this newspaper; so she had to carry the baby to term.

Being pregnant proved difficult for Greene. She had to drop out of school and was also forced to leave the area where she lived to avoid unwanted attention and embarrassment.

When Stabroek News visited the teen at her home recently to see how she was coping with her new responsibilities as a mother, her belly was still swollen, but she managed to give a warm smile.

She told this newspaper she was finding her role as a mother rather difficult since she had to be up at all hours of the night to tend to her daughter, who she has now named Rochelle Abigailla Greene. She also has to wash the baby's clothing everyday.

She thanked a cousin for supporting her and helping her with her chores.

The teen told this newspaper that after writing common entrance and earning a place at a city school she began living with her cousin in Sophia. According to her, this new living arrangement occurred because her mother had begun a relationship with a man who did not like her. And she said that since becoming pregnant and giving birth she has not seen her mother.

The teenager told Stabroek News that her child's father lives on the Linden-Soesdyke Highway with his mother. She said she had not seen him for a while now and his mother has said that the baby is not her son's. The teen said he was not attending school nor working at the moment

Probation Officers from the Ministry of Human Services and Social Security have since visited Greene and have held a counselling session with her. The teen said one of the officers told her that the boy couldn't be charged since he was also a minor.

Assistant Chief Probation Officer Arnold Mickle confirmed that the boy could not be charged with statutory rape because of his age. Although the laws of Guyana state that persons could be charged with committing an offence from the age of 11 years, Mickle said this does not apply to statutory rape.

Greene said the probation officer told her she would be sent back to school and she has agreed to go because she wants to be educated.

It has not been decided which school she would be attending but it would likely be one in her area.

She said she was also told that at this point the baby was no longer hers and it would be her cousin's responsibility to look after the infant.

"They tell me that if it wasn't fuh me cousin they woulda take away the baby and put me in an orphanage," Greene said. "How people does feel fuk tek away a child from you? Yuh know what it's like fuh bear a child fuh nine months and someone come and tek away your child?"

She said she did not want to give up the child.

And she told Stabroek News that she was not the only young girl to give birth at the Georgetown Public Hospital on Christmas Eve Day. Greene claimed that there was also an 11-year-old and a 14-year-old girl in hospital with her.

The teenager said the nurses had asked her for the name of the father and his address when she was admitted to the medical institution.

Mickle also told this newspaper that his department was in the process of preparing a list of under-aged mothers.

Asked about the prevalence of under-age girls giving birth and whether the hospital had a policy of reporting cases to the relevant authorities, Medical Director of the hospital Dr Madan Rambarran said the institution was not currently obligated to report any specific teenage pregnancy case to the police or any other agency.

He said the Maternity Unit submitted monthly reports which indicate the various categories of women and girls who would have given birth there. A perusal of those reports, he said, would reveal how many under-age and teenage mothers had given birth in any given month.

But he opined that, "there probably should be some system in place that would allow the hospital to report teenage pregnancy, particularly in instances when the girl is very young."

Rambarran told this newspaper that this was a situation that the hospital would likely be addressing in the future.