Every day girls in the United States face sexual violence, bullying, teen pregnancy and a lack of access to STEM education.
Many of these issues have a direct impact on young girls living in western Massachusetts. Tuesday morning, the Executive Director of Girls Inc Holyoke and staff met to discuss resources available to them.
“For girls, when they can see a future and they can see a goal, it gives them something to work towards,” said Executive Director of Girls Inc. of Holyoke, Suzanne Parker.
According to Girls Inc. National, more than 1 in 20 U.S. teen girls will become pregnant each year, which is the highest rate in the developed world.
Massachusetts Alliance on Teen Pregnancy found that Holyoke had the highest teen birth rate in Massachusetts for eight consecutive years. Currently, Holyoke has the third highest rate of teen pregnancies in the Commonwealth, but there has been a decline in numbers.
Teen pregnancies went from roughly 115 teen births per 1,000 women in 2008 to nearly 40 teen births per 1,000 women in 2014.
“At Girls Inc. we work to provide girls access to programs that can help them deal with those, but also how can we help raise the voices of girls,” said Parker. “How can we increase the awareness in the community of these issues to help makes girls experiences and lives be more fulfilling and successful?”
Parker also told 22News that Massachusetts communities with high teen birth rates have poverty levels 2.5 times higher than the state’s poverty level.