Friday, September 23, 2005

The progress of my project

Last Friday, I attended a forum at INTEC University (Instituto Tecnológico de Santo Domingo) on youth issues in the Dominican Republic. It was so interested to hear university students from institutions all over Santo Domingo discuss the role of the youth in Santo Domingo. I learned so much just sitting there, listening to students express their concerns and present proposals to improve the lives of the younger generation in this country. I now have a better understanding of the reality of Dominican youth. I also had the pleasure of meeting some students who are willing to share their opinions on teenage pregnancy with me.

In a brief conversation with professors and students, I learned that teenage mothers are forced to attend night classes. Their schools ostracize them and do not allow them to attend classes with their peers. It seems as though the schools do not want the teenage mothers to give any ideas to the other students. The reasoning is the same when it comes to sex education—that is, if sex education programs are put into schools, students will be encouraged to have sex.

This belief is unfounded. President Bush happens to think the same thing and thus supports abstinence only education programs instead of safe sex programs even though the research states that abstinence only programs do not work. Although we probably all wish that teenagers abstained from having sex, that simply is not the reality. And, it does not help that the media constantly bombards us with images of sex. Instead, I argue that schools implement comprehensive sex education programs instead of imposing the president’s morals on them with abstinence only programs.

Not only are the pregnant and parenting teenagers in Santo Domingo forced to attend night classes as punishment, but they are also ostracized by their families. They are mistreated and verbally abused for being a “slut.” Clearly, they need more support from society instead of being stigmatized and neglected.

At the meeting, I also learned that most students do not have much to do after classes. Of course, those families with means could afford to sign their children up for music, sports, and other extra-curricular activities after school hours. As I have been saying for a long time now, after school programs and extra-curricular activities are important and necessary. Education policymakers, both here and in the United States, need to see the merit in such activities. The more extra-curricular activities a student does, the better he or she performs in school, not to mention that such activities empower and engage students, making them feel a part of something.

Moreover, I have finally been officially approved to work at the hospital. After weeks of going back and forth to meet with several individuals at the hospital and after presenting my proposal, I could finally begin working there on Monday. I have prepared a questionnaire to learn more about the relationship between education level, poverty, and teenage pregnancy. Although I am focusing my research on poverty and education level, I am not neglecting the many other causes of teenage pregnancy. For example, I am doing some reading on the sexual trade of girls, on machismo, on early marriage, and more.

Besides working at the hospital, I will also be taking a class, “Ser Mujer Hoy” (Being a Woman Today) to learn more about the reality for Dominican women. I am also in the process of trying to secure work at IDEV to talk to sexual workers about their experiences and their opinions on teenagers and their children joining the trade. If I have time, I am also planning to work at PROFAMILIA. I will also be interviewing several people and will be consulting with Professor Jacqueline Polanco of FLASCO. All in all, I am very excited about my work and am proud in all that I have accomplished in these past three weeks.


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