Recently, whilst watching much (possibly too much!)of the BBC3 'Adult season' I have been increasingly amazed at the seemingly vast supply of young pregnant girls case studies. Of course I was aware that in the UK we have the highest rate of teenage pregnancy in Europe, but I guess that such statistics only gain real meaning when you can put a face to them. Maybe I am 10 years too late, but I am in shock. How have we ended up like this?
The programme titles included the emotionless 'underage and pregnant' and 'The trouble with girls: three girls and three babies'. The pregnancy themed 'my big decision' where parents try to stop their children for making the wrong choices in life was successful, thankfully, but the girls' decisions not to add to the statistic still left them with motherhood as their main aim in life. They would just wait until they were older and had a job, so that they could be better mothers. Maybe my maternal instincts are non existent, but I find it hard to understand how motherhood could be a sole life ambition.
The question as to why the girls featured did see pregnancy as an ambition seems to be answered by the fact that it is one of the only ambitions that is achievable to them. The most depressing scene from all of these programmes was when the two girls from 'three girls three babies' were told that they would not be eligible to join the army, due to a skin condition. The army had been their only ambition. With this rejection and school not working out for them they were left with nothing. The programme then followed one of the girls, who was now pregnant by an older male. There was purposeful editing at play here, but the state of affairs that this ordering highlighted was perfectly true. Without the prospect of a career in the army and with no proper schooling this girl could only gain a title through pregnancy.
It feels as if these girls need to be something and the gaining the title of mother is the easiest way to attain this. It is, I guess, part of the human condition to want to be something, but it is troubling that these girls don't seem to realise that being a teenage mother is not being something or someone, but is being a statistic.
It is easy to live in a world away from teenage pregnancy whilst at university, amongst women receiving higher education, but for many women young motherhood is their only world. More than 8,000 girls under 16 became pregnant in 2007 and this figure isn't set to decrease. And it is unfortunately too late for the BBC3 case studies. Motherhood is the only reality of their lives.
Would it be too judgemental to suggest that these young girls need the drama of a pregnancy? We were shown a great amount of footage in these programmes of the girls being idle. I guess some would argue that if they actually attended school then they would not find themselves in this situation. Despite being a valid point, though, this is a redundant point if we are going to ever reach a solution. The government announced its target of halving teenage pregnancies in England by 2010, but again this is only speaking to the statistics, not to the people. There is clearly much socio-economic reasoning behind the problem we have in the country of teenage pregnancy, and this is where the efforts need to focused.
So, will we ever find out what the trouble with girls is? How about these: The trouble with girls is their lack of inspiration. The trouble with girls is their lack of education. No. The real trouble with girls is that they are in trouble and we are not saving them.