Life of a teen girl can be daunting. Girls are often trying to strike a balance between school, parents and finding their identity. It becomes much harder when through a series of unfortunate events, they become pregnant and if that is not hard not enough, pregnant with HIV.
Joy Crawford and her co-founder Patricia Watson walked away from paying jobs in 2008 to provide support to women with HIV/ AIDS. They later realised, there was another cohort who needed their attention even more — teenagers. Eve For Life was born and is currently the only NGO that focuses specifically on teenage mothers living with HIV/AIDS. They provide psychosocial support and the Ministry of Health and Wellness focuses on the treatment and care of the mothers.
According to World Health Organisation (WHO), there are 15 000 estimated women (15+) living with HIV in Jamaica.
Crawford shares that her experiences at first showed that people were not quick to empathize with the girls because they were seen as being problematic. This perception also puts a band-aid over the source of the problem, as the cases are brought on by violation of rights which of course and also add to the trauma. Over the years, she has seen numerous cases of incest, transactional sex or rape.
According to Crawford, the act of caring for these girls is a “spiritual assignment”.
“Sometimes a girl goes to the health centre because she realises that she is pregnant only to find out through routine testing that she is HIV-positive.”“ She [the teen] would need intervention around her education and family life.”
Eve for Life helps with the transition into motherhood and ensures that there is a community to provide security and structure. They provide mentoring and coaching as well as HIV care and counselling for the girls as well as their families.
After running the organisation for 13 years, Crawford says she gets joy from seeing girls who wanted to take their own lives turn around to become mentors, helping others. A significant number of staff members are persons who have gone through the programme themselves. This has resulted in the building of a family structure that has assisted with the growth and development for all parties involved.