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Shanique Walker: A beacon of hope for teens

Published:Thursday | September 24, 2015 | 9:00 AMShanna Monteith

MORANT BAY, St Thomas:

Stories of teenage pregnancies are echoed across the Caribbean as the expectant young mothers lament their situation while their families condemn them.

Shanique Walker, who got pregnant at 16, stands as beacon of hope for teens who give up on life at conception.

She told Rural Xpress that getting pregnant that young was one of the most terrifying periods of her life.

She said: "My mother was distraught upon realising I was pregnant and keeping it. I could see the pain and disappointment in her eyes and behaviour. My father was angry and vowed to have nothing to do with the care of the unborn child."

And though her friends were supportive, encouraging her to remain strong, Shanique revealed that they admitted that they were surprised that someone whom they considered to be very educated could fall victim to such social poison.

As with similar cases, Shanique testified to the hardships of the time.

However, despite all that could hurt, the now 24-year-old says the hardest part of her pregnancy was seeing her friends in sixth form and university while she was watching her body transform, adding that it made her feel like an outsider.

Shanique revealed that her older sister was also a victim of teenage pregnancy and this made her aware of the impact it has on its victims.

"She (her older sister) got pregnant before finishing high school and basically dismissed her dreams of furthering her education because she had to care for her child. I didn't want to be just another educated girl who got pregnant and didn't further herself because she was bound by society's stigma," Shanique said.

According to her: "I knew that my family's financial support was now a thing of the past so I went to work three months after giving birth."

Wouldn't settle for mediocrity

And though she was told that college would be a waste of time, the determined young woman persevered.

"Somehow I knew that it wasn't my destiny to settle for mediocrity. I took a leap of faith and applied for teachers' college. In the back of my head, I wanted to prove to my parents that I was different from my sister. I wanted to have a story to share with my son. I wanted to further my education," Shanique said, adding that she wanted to inspire other teenage mothers.

Now the proud holder of a Bachelor of Education degree in language and lerature, Shanique currently lectures at a tertiary intuition while she pursues her master's degree.

According to her: "I did a 12-week intervention programme at a popular co-educational school in the Corporate area. There I mentored fifth-form students about the impact of teenage pregnancy and the importance of sex education. My ultimate goal is to partner with the Woman Centre of Jamaica Foundation so I can use my experience to empower current teenage mothers."

Shanique hopes to spread the word to current teenage mothers that "pregnancy is not a terminal illness".

rural@gleanerjm.com