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They are girls, not mothers: the epidemic of teenage pregnancies in Ecuador

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  • Almost 3,000 girls under fourteen give birth each year in Ecuador.
  • The figure represents a 78% increase in early pregnancies in the last decade, according to the National Health and Nutrition Survey.
  • The State Attorney General’s Office has registered 18,000 cases of violations in the last four years, but many are not reported by the victims.
Babys bedroom in the Home of the Single Mother Teenage Girl of Conooto

Baby’s bedroom in the Home of the Single Mother Teenage Girl of Conooto

Daniela (fictitious name) is sixteen years old. She became pregnant with twelve years and became a mother at thirteen, with a man who doubled her age. He lives in a reception center on the outskirts of Quito with his three-year-old son, Christian. His son’s father was a neighbor of the family who later became a friend of his mother and, finally, his boyfriend and father of the baby: “[When the baby’s father got drunk] he beat me and grabbed me by the neck “.

Daniela (fictitious name) is sixteen years old. She became pregnant with twelve years and became a mother at thirteen, with a man who doubled her age. He lives in a reception center on the outskirts of Quito with his three-year-old son, Christian. His son’s father was a neighbor of the family who later became a friend of his mother and, finally, his boyfriend and father of the baby: “[When the baby’s father got drunk] he beat me and grabbed me by the neck “.

Baby Christian was born premature, says the young woman: “They say that it is so in teenage mothers, that babies do not have space or good food, but today is fine.” With the arrival of the baby, Christian’s father told Daniela that he would talk to his mother “in case he gave her last names.”

However, after successive beatings with attempted asphyxiation, Daniela decided to leave with her baby, away from the father and her own family, which also did not mean a positive environment for them. From the age of twelve, when she was a victim of rape at the hands of her son’s father, she didn’t want to get pregnant but she didn’t know how to avoid it: “I heard in school … I knew about the morning-after pill. I was very embarrassed to use those things and get them. The town is small and what a shame. “

In the shelter where she lives with her child today, Daniela has all the basic needs covered: “They help me with medicines and personally I feel more confident in myself and more able to take care of my child.” His older sister has also passed through the shelter where he lives, following the sexual abuse he suffered at the hands of Daniela’s father: “He is imprisoned for 26 years. I feel bad for my sister because, one as a child expects his mother and Dad take care of him, but I also feel bad for him because he is still my dad. “

After giving birth, his own family and his son’s father (his rapist), did not allow him to return to school. However, Daniela dreams of studying psychology “to hypnotize people and remember their past.” She would like to put it into practice with herself because she only has memories since she was nine years old and suspects she may have suffered abuse before that age. “I’m a little afraid that my dad or two of my uncles have done something to me and I would like someone to help me find if something happened to me and it makes me a little desperate.”

Daniela is one of the almost 3,000 girls under fourteen who give birth each year in Ecuador. It is a worrying statistic for Health authorities, whose task is to reduce the number of teenage pregnancies. In the last decade, the increase in births of girls between 10 and 14 years old was 78%, according to the National Survey of Health and Nutrition (ENSANUT) of 2018. In the words of Dr. José Masache, gynecologist of the adolescent area of ​​the Maternity Isidro Ayora of Quito, is a “tragedy” that he faces every morning in his consultation: “These cases are legally considered rape and we put out forest fires with fire extinguishers.”

Almost two decades working in this hospital and not a day goes by that, at the beginning of the day, this doctor does not ask how to delay teenage motherhood, something normalized in the less favored social classes. “Their life project is to be mothers. They want to be moms, even if it’s from a rapist,” says Dr. Masache, the most hopeless headline taken from the study they have developed at this hospital. It is mainly due to the lack of sex education, Masache reports, the absence of life projects that empower women.

Michaela is fourteen, but she got pregnant at thirteen. At school, they also recommended abstinence or the morning after pill as contraceptive methods. Although his mother never told him about how to prevent pregnancy, he did withdraw the word when he heard of his. Michaela decided to move on because “the baby was not to blame.” Although he returns to the medical center for a review, he does not get excited to consult with a newborn in his arms, since he lost it during delivery in week 37 of pregnancy, something not exceptional or unique, according to statistics of early pregnancies. Doctors check his contraceptive implant in his arm because at fourteen he has already become a population at risk; Indicators say that pregnancies usually recur at eleven months. “I don’t want to have children,

According to the psychologist and therapist Teresa Cruz, from Cumbayá, on the outskirts of Quito, the girls-mothers who attend their workshops have a common denominator: “They resent the world because it is not what they want. They hate those babies and they see in the child the face of the father and it is the same image.

Four Ecuadorian government ministries work together to end teenage motherhood as a public health problem. “It affects us all as a society because they have to stop studying, access unpaid jobs to take care of their child and enter the circle of poverty,” summarizes Dr. Masache.

The religious Francisca Ramos, sister of the Order of Our Lady of Charity of the Good Shepherd, welcomes us in the Home of the Single Teen Mother, who runs in Conooto, a town one hour from Quito. Moms from twelve to seventeen arrive here, with their babies or about to give birth, sent by the Prosecutor’s Office with a court order. All come from an environment of domestic abuse or abused by her boyfriend and have a hard time reporting.

They have encountered cases of girls in the Home who did not know exactly who the father of the baby was because the girl was the victim of recurring rapes by several men within her own family, according to mother Francisca Ramos. The nun also remembers the case of another girl who, upon arriving at the center, had denounced her own father as the father of her son. However, the teenager would have changed her story after receiving a visit from her mother.

However, despite the tragedy that surrounds her, Mother Francisca retains the same enthusiasm every day to continue fighting: “What we want is to interrupt the chain, they are daughters and granddaughters of rapes, which is not repeated again, that the babies I have here are not abused, that they live in a world with joy. “

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