In Latin America, in 2020 and according to the World Health Organization (WHO), the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), the birth rate among girls and adolescents between 10 and 19 years of age is the second highest in the world. An estimated 18% of births in the region are to mothers under 20 years of age.
Teens that become parents are burdened with incredible hardships that fuel the perpetual cycle of transgenerational poverty. Teen mothers are more likely than boys to drop out of school, hence reaching lower levels of education, experiencing greater barriers to growth, development and healthcare and increasing their risk of falling victim to gender violence.
WITHIN LATIN AMERICA, DOMINICAN REPUBLIC RANKS ...
- 1st PLACE in the rate of CHILD MARRIAGES and EARLY UNIONS
- 1st PLACE in the rate of GIRLS AND TEENAGE PREGNANCIES
- 3rd PLACE in the rate of FEMICIDES
The 2020 Global Gender Gap Report, published by the World Economic Forum, also reveals how gender parity around the world will take about 100 years to be achieved. The Dominican Republic, in the overall ranking of the study, ranks 86th out of 153 participating countries; and 21st among the 25 nations that make up the Latin American and Caribbean group, demonstrating how important it is to work on women's competencies and leadership.
In the specific case of Miches, and according to a study conducted by World Vision (2020), 10.5% of adolescents in the community, between 12 and 18 years old, are or have been pregnant; and 4.3% live with their “partner.” The girls who find themselves in this situation, are at higher risk of being abused and/or assuming a greater workload in terms of household chores, stifling their development in such a critical moment of their lives.
The COVID-19 pandemic, and the social distancing and shelter in place policies, disproportionately impacted the world’s most vulnerable communities, and Miches was no exception. Rural and low-resourced communities experienced an increase in unplanned teen pregnancies, cases of gender-based violence and child marriage. The economic hardship caused by the global measures of confinement, lockdown and social distancing will have a direct impact on the well-being of girls and women for years to come.
Early unions and child marriage stifle development, and in the Dominican Republic the practice is prevalent: 36% of girls under 18 years old were married 12% of which married before their 15th birthday. Though child marriage in Dominican Republic was legally banned on January 6, 2021, when the executive branch enacted law number 1-21, the practice and cultural acceptance of early unions continues. Nevertheless, this legal framework is the first important step toward safeguarding the fundamental rights of girls.
Gender-based violence in Latin America is on the rise. According to studies from the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), femicide rates continue to grow, citing 1,795 deaths between 2010 and 2019, as well as steady upward trends in cases related to sexual abuse and harassment. In Miches and surrounding areas, more than 50% of adolescent girls say they have suffered some type of abuse or threat from family members or men that form part of their daily environment.
When adolescents become parents, they are at greater risk of abandoning their education, girls more so than boys, as they become the primary caretaker. In 2016, according to a study conducted by EDUCA - Acción Empresarial por la Educación, 39.8% of women disengaged from the educational system due to teen pregnancy. Circumstances such as the school closures decreed in March 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic have aggravated the situation: around 20,000 Dominican students dropped out of school according to data collected by Save the Children.