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Why so many children? Why so Young?


If you had the opportunity to walk on the streets of Coqueiral, or Coque, or any intensely populated neighborhood of Recife’s metropolitan area, one thing will definately grab your attention: there are so many children!


The cynic will say, “Create a programme to keep these women from having babies, that’s the best social programme possible”. The theologian will say, “Children are a blessing from God, just because they are poor, it doesn’t mean they are any less valuable.” The secular humanist will agree, “We need to work towards a world that is friendly to each and every child, in every corner of the globe.”


When Happy Child International decided to take a closer look at adolescent pregnancy, the consensus was that most teenage girls became pregnant by accident. Unprotected sex, an act of ignorance, lack of orientation, or even lack of foresight were the cause. There were also those pregnancies that happened as the direct result of sexual abuse.


But after the Project Gathering’s first year in action, and which is run by our partner Instituto Solidare, we also encountered a few pregnancies that are the fruit of a young couple’s legitimate desire to grow a family, looking to the future with hope and a conviction that they can, in their poverty, bring up a child in love.


The thoughtful social worker will therefore ask: “How can we come alongside those who truly want to have their own children, and, at the same time, help prevent unwanted pregnancies?” And that requires spending time with these young people, both male and female and learning to hear what goes on in their hearts.

A few things to consider:

  • The majority of them will not have a chance of getting any education past high school. They finish high school around 18 years old. The next step is to find a job and begin a family. (Only 13% of Brazilians will obtain a college degree).

  • They don’t think they will be able to get out of poverty by working the jobs they have available to them. For them, being able to hold a steady job is already a great accomplishment.

  • Being able to find a partner and establish their own family is a perennial and deeply held desire for many.

Project Gathering has been working on various fronts:

  1. Helping young women to have the information they need to prevent unwanted pregnancy when they don’t feel ready for it.

  2. Walking with those who have already become mums at a young age. In these cases, young women who find new meaning in motherhood fare better than those who continue to hold the view that the pregnancy was a disaster.

  3. Engaging with those young couples who were trying to conceive because, despite their young age, they felt ready to start a family.

Context matters and the most brilliant move Project Gathering made was to bring these young women and a few fathers together to become a self-supporting community. In a non-judgmental environment, each young woman can think about her decisions, her desires, and the future she is walking towards. Their children will be blessed!


  • Written by Elsie Gilbert

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