SAVANNA-LA-MAR, Westmoreland — Canadian-born supermodel and PUMA brand ambassador Winnie Harlow has teamed up to provide support to the Women’s Centre Foundation of Jamaica (WCFJ) in its effort to help teen mothers.
The WCFJ was launched more than four decades ago, at a time when teenage pregnancy rates were extremely high. Over the years it has assisted more than 55,000 young women, in keeping with its core mandate of providing a space to allow pregnant teenagers to continue their education.
In 2018, when the WCFJ celebrated its 40th anniversary, the Advancing Secondary, Tertiary and Remedial Education for Adolescent Mothers (A-Stream) Programme was launched to help young mothers with school expenses after it was realised they were at risk of dropping out a second time because they could not find the money. Today the foundation is proud of the work it has done to decrease the rates of teenage pregnancy and repeat pregnancy.
While the WCFJ receives government support, the A-Stream Programme does not.
On Wednesday, Harlow and PUMA donated US$20,000 to the programme during a visit to the Savanna-la-Mar Women’s Centre (SWC) and PUMA also presented 20 adolescent mothers with active wear. The 45-year-old WCFJ has 10 main centres and four output stations — including the SWC. Harlow, who is Canadian by birth, chose the SWC to make her presentation in honour of her father, Windsor Young, who was born in Westmoreland.
The donation, which will benefit all the centres, will cover the cost of tuition, school supplies, and supplies for babies of the teen mothers, along with other needs that arise.
During Wednesday’s visit, there was also an announcement that PUMA plans to do a documentary on the WCFJ’s efforts to curb teen pregnancy in Jamaica.
Public relations and communication manager of the WCFJ, Latoya Rattray Ellis, told the Jamaica Observer that US$4,500 from the donation made will be used to fund videography and editing for the documentary, which will be used as a fund-raiser for the WCFJ.
The documentary will be directed by veteran journalist and British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) broadcaster Laura Trevelyan, who has volunteered her services.
On Wednesday, Rattray Ellis used the opportunity to urge pregnant teen girls to join the programme as there are lots of benefits to be gained. She pointed to one well-known Jamaican who has benefited, the principal director of the Bureau of Gender Affairs Sharon Coburn Robinson.
“She was among the first 17 students who started at 42 Trafalgar Road, and look where she is now,” said Rattray Ellis.
“The programme is not mandatory, but the reason we think every girl who gets pregnant must come to us is because of the psycho-social support that we offer. It’s not only about the [education], but also about the counselling offered. It’s a community, you have somebody to lean on,” she added.
Abigail Malcolm is another success story. With the help of the SWC she reintegrated into high school after the birth of her child. She now provides financial support to the centre along with being a counsellor and motivational speaker for young women who seek help there.
“I must say that the programmes offered by the women’s centre are very rewarding, because I have benefited from them,” Malcolm told the Observer.
“It is not a bed of roses as a teenage mother, but at the end of the day it has propelled me into the woman I am today. Not because you got pregnant at a certain age means you cannot go where you really want to go. If you don’t want to push yourself to betterment after having a baby, that is your choice, but everyone deserves a second chance. Most of these girls here are brilliant young ladies. We have two young ladies who have just graduated teacher’s college and are doing tremendously well,” she added.
In addition to the support provided by individuals such as Malcolm, there has also been help from some sections of corporate Jamaica.
“The Sandals Foundation has a women’s programme here at the centre where we teach the young ladies life skills, like sewing and other skills that they can develop,” said public relations manager at Sandals South Coast Ashley Crisp.
“From a resort standpoint, though, we often assist in various ways. Today we catered the food. We have donated sanitary items and clothing items for their [children] as well as any assistance they will need, whether financial or items in general,” added Crisp.