Erica Virtue, Senior Gleaner Writer
Reality is hitting home hard. Too many women are having too many children they cannot afford, for too many men who will not stay.
This is one of the lessons that emerged from the disruption of the lives of squatters in downtown Kingston recently. A large number of children - as many as seven with one mother and different fathers - were among scores of people flushed to a Duke Street sidewalk with all their belongings after they were evicted from a property which they illegally occupied for years.
Published reproduction figures show 2.12 children per female in Jamaica. However, anecdotal evidence would suggest that many women, especially in poor inner-city communities, are mothers to multiple children with multiple absent fathers.
More than three decades after the National Family Planning Board (NFPB) launched its 'Two is Better Than Too Many' campaign to promote responsible parenting, some Jamaican women continue to give birth to children they cannot support.
Statistics provided by the World Bank quoting the United Nations Population Division show that the Jamaican adolescent fertility rate - the number of births per 1,000 women age 15-19 - is 73.
In one case in Manchester, a teenager became a mother at 15, had seven children by the time she was 30, and increased that number to 11 before her 40th birthday.
At 56, she is now a great-great-grandmother.
In another case, also in Manchester, the young girl became a mother at age 13 and had her second child by the time she was 15 years old.
She became a grandmother by the time she was 25, and is now a great-great-grandmother at 52 years old.
Similar stories from several communities across the island have led to questions about the effectiveness of the age-old family-planning message.
But the NFPB says it still provides contraceptive pills for women at a cost of $25 per pack, and condoms at $5 each in an effort to reduce the cost of birth control.
Contraceptive injections are also available at public health clinics at a reduced cost, but still the women have several children they cannot support financially or emotionally.
Last week, psychologist, lecturer and host of the weekly radio programme 'Mind Doctor', Christopher Charles, argued that where there is no employment, skills or education, and a warped value system, the children produced are likely to graduate into a criminal industry.
"It's a common phenomenon among the poor across societies. So the so-called white trash in the USA manifests the same phenomenon.
"Once the woman is uneducated, unskilled, unemployed, it does not mean she does not need a man for emotional needs. The partner they can get, because of the level they are on, will almost certainly cannot provide much more," said Charles.
A clinical psychologist, Charles offered counselling services in the Harlem area of the United States before his recent return to Jamaica.
He said a significant percentage of his clientele were among America's poorest.
NOT MUCH BARGAINING POWER
The lack of economic independence, according to Charles, does not allow the woman much room to take a position, such as demanding that the man use a condom.
The end product of unprotected sex is not only the risk of unplanned pregnancies, but also life-threatening sexually transmitted infections, Charles suggested.
Charles argued that in many of these cases, there is no relationship to sustain the unprotected sex, which leaves the woman with another child, another mouth to feed, and a step deeper into poverty.
Childbirth becomes a vicious cycle because the uneducated, unemployed woman will need a man to financially support her offspring.
"But the more children she has, it's less likely that the man will stay. All that an additional child does is cause less food for the others, and that is another step deeper into poverty," Charles pointed out.
Lobbyist Betty-Ann Blaine called the eviction of the women and their children from the Duke Street property they were squatting on "wicked", but did not address the sexual irresponsibility of the women.
Blaine, in a later address, said she did not encourage persons to have children that they could not support, as "unless you get a good education, … you will never break the inter-generational cycle of poverty in Jamaica".
She stressed the importance of stable families to the development of the country.