The Teen Pregnancy Rate In Guatemala Is High…Why?


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In a 2012 interview with Inter Press Service, Dr. Mirna Montenegro of the Observatorio de Salud Reproductiva (Sexual and Reproductive Health Observatory; OSAR), an organization that monitors Guatemala’s public policy on reproductive health, stated, “We are one of the few countries where there are so many pregnancies among 10 to 14-year-old girls.”
In Guatemala, half of all women are married by the age of 20, and 44 percent become mothers by the same age. Among indigenous and uneducated women, the latter statistic rises to 54 and 68 percent, respectively. By the age of 30, many of these women have seven or eight children, and even though a federal mandate provides reproductive health education and healthcare, only 5 percent of women in Guatemala consistently use an effective method of birth control, mainly due to cultural norms and the influence of the Catholic Church’s ban on contraceptive use.
According to the country’s Ministry of Health and Social Assistance, there were 135,808 pregnancies in girls aged 10 to 19 between 2009 and 2011. In 2012, there were 61,000 pregnancies —of which 35 were 10-year-old girls — giving Guatemala the highest teenage pregnancy rate in Latin America.
Many experts believe that the lack of education and healthcare, widespread poverty, and sexual violence are the catalyst behind Guatemala’s rise in teen pregnancy.
Education and Health
With 25 percent of the country illiterate, Guatemala ranks 174th out of 194 countries in terms of literacy. According to the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), the average education level for a Guatemalan is four years and only a third of children graduate from the sixth grade.
The Guatemalan education system is second-rate, particularly in rural areas, where the majority of classrooms do not have suitable schooling materials. Additionally, many children are forced to drop out due to their parents’ inability to pay for school and transportation fees. The dropout rates among children — specifically rural and indigenous children — are exceedingly high, and girls are normally the most affected.
Of the 2 million Guatemalan children who do not attend school, indigenous girls, specifically Mayan, make up the majority. Mayan girls are among the country’s most underprivileged groups due to limited schooling, early marriage, and lingering poverty.
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