I found me.... through the eyes of an adolescent
I Found ME - part one
By: Frank Robinson and Cheyanne Forde
Youth Media Guyana
Michera Marsh is an upbeat, friendly and bright young lady. Her bright smile and outlook on life belies a history of betrayal, hurt and uncertainty. Having worked with her in a recent teen programme, I feel compelled to share her experiences, which mirrors that of many other adolescents in many rural areas.
Michera comes from the Ancient County of Berbice, a village called “Kingely”. At 18, she already has two children; ages two and one. Michera had lost her mother at a very young age and even though her father did a good job of raising her, she believes that if she had a mother figure in her life things would have been a different. “Growing up without a mother was hard because I never had anyone to talk to about life and things like that. I mean, I had my father and brothers but they were “males” and they had different views,” she recalled. “I think this is the main reason why I had sex so young and so on.”
While attending school Michera and her best friend (at least she thought the girl was her best friend) were inseparable; they did a lot of things together. One day Michera, her friend and her friend’s boyfriend were hanging out at the friend’s home, when her friend’s boyfriend forced her to have intercourse with him.
Rumors began, Michera was teased and humiliated in school and not having the strength to deal with the constant bombardment she decided to drop out of school. Her ability to trust people was also broken, the experience changed her.
“I couldn’t take it; everybody had something to say…and it was really stressful for me. It was around this time that I met my children’s father.”
Like many of the girls in the village Michera’s “children father” is older than her and it was someone she looked up to, someone who cared for her when others did not. Still the thought of getting pregnant did not cross her mind. “When I found out I was scared because I didn’t know what to do, but my fiancé was always supportive.”
Her father and brothers however were not, in her words they “turned their backs” on her. She had embarrassed them. This made her feel even worse. Michera later decided to confront one of her brothers to tell her side, what she was going through. She told him of the pain of losing their mother and having no one checking to see how she was coping. She described the hardships of growing up without a parental figure to nurture her and help her in the tough times. To her brother this was a revelation. He was shocked. He confessed he was focused on himself and other things, and that he had no idea what was going on.”
This was the point that influenced her entire family, they reconciled and today they support Michera wholeheartedly. The support of her family and her fiancé did not mean that things got better for Michera. Life was still very challenging to say the least - there are limited jobs available in Berbice and even less if you are unqualified. It was not easier when her second child was born.
Living with her father, brothers, children and child father Michera wondered what could be done to improve her life.
“Even though my children’s father is taking care of us I wanted to do something because sitting at home doing nothing was not right. So when I heard about the Continuing Education Program for Teen Mothers and Pregnant Teens I thought that is would be a good thing for me to get into.’ she said’
Michera soon recognized the benefits of the program, but was still hesitant because of her academic background and what may be required of her. She nevertheless persevered. According to her the program has exceeded all expectations. She is always excited to do both academic and skills training, it keeps her active and teaches her skills she never thought could be possible for her.
“When they give us work to do. I go home and prepare my files and work hard to understand the stuff they give us. I get excited and can’t wait for Saturday to come around so I can go to classes! It makes me feel good.”
Michera would like the program to continue but more than anything she would like to see the certificate that would be handed out at the end of the program be accredited so the young women could use them to become employed. She also believes that there should be a mentorship programme in the community where adolescents (both boys and girls) can talk to someone, be counselled and generally get advice that sometimes parents cannot give.
For Michera, only time will tell if these things will be a reality but one thing is for certain Michera McDonald is well on her way to achieving the life that she truly deserves and has added her voice to those calling for better opportunities for adolescents.
Frank Robinson and Cheyyanne Forde
UNICEF for Latin America and the Caribbean, promotes the LACVOX regional network of networks for adolescent communicators. It encourages adolescent participation within the region as a right stipulated in the Convention on the Rights of the Child. The network promotes the strengthening of the capabilities and knowledge of its children and adolescent members.