FWCC comments on teenage pregnancy premature: Poole

Ministry of Women, Children and Poverty Alleviation's PS Jennifer Poole. Picture: FT FILE/SUPPLIED

COMMENTS made by Fiji Women Crisis Centre’s co-ordinator Shamima Ali that Government’s new mothers’ benefit program encouraged teenage pregnancies have been labelled as premature.

While commenting on issues regarding abandoned babies who were the result of teenage pregnancies, Ms Ali said the new mothers’ benefit program needed to be reviewed.

She said even though the purpose of the initiative was reasonable, there were still some people who were bound to take advantage of this easy opportunity just to get money, resulting in more unwanted babies.

Ms Ali also said society was such that some mothers prioritised money than the lives of their newborn.

She claimed this was evident in babies that continued to be abandoned around the country.

In response to these comments, permanent secretary for the Ministry of Women, Children and Poverty Alleviation Jennifer Poole said the comment failed to consider the complexities that surrounded relationships, family planning, and culture.

Ms Poole said at this point in time, Fiji did not have any comparative analysis of the baseline statistics of teenage pregnancies from a year ago since the initiative began.

“This comment is premature given that it is coming at a time that this program is in the first year of implementation,” she said.

“Baby bonuses or baby bundles are common practices in other countries such as Singapore, Canada, Italy and Australia, and it ranges in the phases in which the assistance is given to parents and also in the amounts or items that are given per country depending on what the government can afford to give.

“In Singapore, the intent of their program was to encourage parents to have more children; however, reports show that the implementation of the baby bonus did not achieve this goal.

“Obviously, people would know that having a baby and raising them costs a lot more than what the baby bonus offers.”

However, Ms Poole said they recognised the need for the program to be reviewed.

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