Motherhood Optional in Brazil

There's some good stuff happening in Brazil.  There is an organization there involved in changing "the embedded view in poor teenagers that suggests motherhood is a destination instead of a personal choice." Vera Cordeiro, Founder and General Superintendant of Associação Saude Criança, gives detail.

It is called the The Aconchego Project. Cordeiro says, "...in the favelas of Brazil the identity of motherhood is status--a 'destination' sought by teenage girls who view the opportunity to have a baby as a validation of their esteem even though they are unprepared to raise a child."

"Favelas can be violent places to live. The rules are often different in places affected by abject poverty. And for young girls, pregnancy is often viewed as 'protective' in ways that outsiders may not understand. As it was explained to me, having a baby by a leader in the community associates that girl with a powerful man. That identity can protect her as her child will be recognized as belonging to the leader. This is the destination sought by many young girls."

"Changing this idea in the minds of teenagers is not without its challenges."

But the progam seems to be succeeding with these challenges. The project is "designed as a public square in which teenage girls receive education regarding motherhood and pregnancy"...they "work with teenagers offering counseling and self-esteem building activities to make them realize that motherhood is a choice. We provide a neutral space where both parents and teenagers can freely express their views."

Each teen participates in the project for two years. "According to Brazil's Health Ministry on the decade between 2000 and 2010 there was a decrease of 34.6% in teenage pregnancy in Brazil...In the communities and the social class of these teenagers, teenage pregnancy is very common," but this project shows them there are other possibilities, and "they can identify other perspectives for their lives."

So far, over 200 teenagers have participated" and the feedback from both parents and teenagers is strongly positive." Teens better understand the difficulties of motherhood, learn skills for "better communication and understanding with their parents," and are encouraged to "stay in school and prepare themselves for the labor market."

What a great project. Can you imagine if this grows to all the favelas, and could replicate in other poor areas all over the world? Who could make that happen? First thought--it's right up Melinda Gates'global reproductive health alley!

Laura Carroll

Author of The Baby Matrix: Why Freeing Our Minds From Outmoded Thinking About Parenthood & Reproduction Will Create a Better World

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