People often ask us why there are so many orphaned and abandoned kids in Honduras, so I'm writing a series of articles to answer that question. I write this from our 8 years of experience in working with students, abandoned kids, the Honduran social services, and many other non-profit organizations in Honduras. While we will keep our kid's histories private, these are the types of stories they could tell. -- Sarah Furrow
Young teenage moms are commonplace in Honduras. Statistics from a major hospital here record that the average first pregnancy is at 15-years-old.
I could probably write all day on our observations of and experiences with teenage moms here, but I’ll try to simplify it into a few main points:
- It’s common and even fairly acceptable for a girl of 13 or 14 to run away with an older guy. Teenage girls often see this as an escape, often from boredom or an abusive parent or stepparent. People here call this “getting married,” but there’s usually not a wedding and the relationships generally don’t last long.
- Young girls here often feel trapped by poverty and a lack of options for their lives. In Honduras, most kids don’t study beyond the 6th grade or the 9th grade, especially in rural areas. It’s common to be 14, be out of school, and have no job prospects or anything else different over the horizon. For a young girl, finding a guy and having a baby might seem like a "start" to their lives.
- People here, especially in rural areas, assume that you have to have your babies very early in life. You’re supposed be finished having kids by your mid-20s. People don’t criticize teenage moms; it’s normal and expected.
It’s a common scenario for a girl of 20 to have two babies from two different men and be currently alone. What options does she have? She’ll either have to move home and hope her parents can support her family, or leave her kids behind and look for work in the city, or find a new man. If she does find a new man, he very well may say he doesn’t want her other kids.
Teenage moms often can’t support a baby, financially or emotionally. Moms sometimes abandon their kids in an effort to "start over" in life when they feel they've run out of options.
In our years in Honduras we've seen this story repeated over and over. So many girls we know have gotten pregnant young and stopped short their dreams of an education and career. Unfortunately, they don't believe that they have any other options in life.
Part of our job here is to encourage girls and help them set goals for their futures. We tell them to wait for marriage until they're older and educated, and tell them that they're worth waiting for. We are teaching young people how to have healthy marriages and good parenting skills. Hopefully we can encourage positive change, for a better future for Honduras and it's young people.