Newly crowned Miss World, Toni-Ann Singh, is encouraging teen mothers not to let anything deter them from realising their dreams and that they have the capability within them to achieve greatness.
“I want you to know that you are so important, you are so loved, there is no title, there is no label, there is nothing that can hold you back, and you are capable of anything you set your mind to,” she said.
She was speaking to the young people during a visit to the Women’s Centre of Jamaica Foundation’s (WCJF) headquarters in New Kingston on Monday (December 23).
Miss Singh pledged to support the young women in any way she could, so that they can realise their true potential.
“What I’m passionate about is making sure that… however I can help, it will be done so with the [support] of the Miss World Organization. We are going to make sure that whatever your capabilities are, we turn them into opportunities for you. We love you, we respect you; being a mother is not easy,” she said.
For her part, Minister of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport, Hon. Olivia Grange, noted that the centre’s programme for adolescent mothers seeks to ensure that “when you leave here, you’ll be ready for the world”.
“To be a mother is a wonderful experience, and whatever you may have seen as an obstacle, treat it as an opportunity. Just take in everything that is given to you, and now more than anything, your inspiration is Toni-Ann,” she said.
Miss Grange noted that the WCJF has assisted many young girls over the years, with more than 46,000 adolescent mothers being reintegrated into the formal education system, since its inception.
She pointed out that because so many young mothers are at risk of dropping out of school a second time, the Advancing Secondary, Tertiary Remedial Education for Adolescent Mothers (A-STREAM) Programme was introduced, which ensures that they continue their secondary education and advance to tertiary studies.
Ms. Grange noted that last year, $2.2 million was budgeted to assist the girls to go back to secondary school, enable four adolescent fathers to further their education and four adolescent mothers to pay tuition at the tertiary level.
The WCJF provides adolescent girls and young women in Jamaica with an opportunity to continue their education after dropping out of school due to pregnancy. The government agency operates seven main centres and 11 outreach stations, islandwide.
Miss Singh’s visit to the facility was one of several activities held as part of her packed four-day trip to Jamaica organised by the Government.
Among the activities were a cultural tribute held at Emancipation Park, a tour of sections of St. Thomas and a visit to the WCJF office in the parish.
She was also hosted by the Prime Minister, the Most Hon. Andrew Holness, at a reception at Jamaica House, and paid courtesy calls on the Governor-General, His Excellency the Most Hon. Sir Patrick Allen; Prime Minister Holness; and the Leader of the Opposition, Dr. Peter Phillips.
Miss Singh left the island today.