“Teen pregnancy impoverishes us as a society”

Helping to lift adolescent mothers out of poverty is the main objective of the
Juanfe Foundation
. It was born in 2001 by the hand of Catalina Escobar. Volunteering at the Cartagena maternity hospital in Colombia made her experience the death in her arms of a baby born to a 14-year-old mother who could not raise the $ 30 necessary for the treatment that could save her. There he began to know, in first person, the misery, poverty and misfortune that was lived.

Soon after, it was her turn to suffer tragedy in her own family. His son Juan Felipe, one and a half years old, died in a domestic accident, so

She decided, in memory of her baby, to establish a social entity to help poor teenage mothers and help save the lives of these minors. In other words, their main challenge was to reduce infant mortality in Bogotá. They succeeded: they reduced it by 81 percent in seven years, despite not having any public aid.

Root of the problem

But some time later, they realized that the root of the infant mortality problem was teenage pregnancy. And it is that in Colombia, Escobar says, one out of every five mothers is an adolescent, being the third country in Latin America with the most cases of early motherhood. An issue that transcends the field of public health. Adolescent pregnancy, in his opinion, is what most “impoverishes us” as a society. As a consequence of a lack of public intervention to end this, “we set out to develop a method of development economics.”

Now, with the 360º model of social development, they work to tackle the problem of adolescent pregnancy from an integral and innovative perspective that stops poverty and generates social and economic growth for these mothers, their children and their families. “Adolescent pregnancy is very expensive for us, it is a problem not only from an economic point of view, but it is not fair that girls only have the option of having boys,” says Escobar.

For this reason, the Juanfe Foundation model tries to integrate these young women into the development pyramid in a sustainable way: with education, psychosocial reparation, dignified labor inclusion and strengthening their maternal role so that they themselves are self-sufficient. In two years, “We recover them so that they are mature, responsible beings and can access the labor market”.

Integration opportunity

A work that has earned him the Mapfre Foundation Award for the Best Project for its Social Impact, having been able to help more than 250,000 people, including teenage mothers, their children and families. In short, the Juanfe Foundation offers these adolescents – who are outside the development pyramid, in a situation of extreme economic, biological, human and social vulnerability – the opportunity to integrate into society. For this, this organization has created an Employment Office that has already facilitated 2,500 placements. Thus, since its creation 20 years ago, it has benefited these mothers and their children by providing coverage and care for 2,000 children between 3 and 24 months of age in their Comprehensive Center for Child Development.

Model expansion

It is a task that is already being carried out by a team of 108 employees from Cartagena, Medellín and Bogotá. Now, also because of the support given to their activity by the award granted in Spain and delivered by the hands of Queen Sofía, they are working to take their 360º model to two more countries and two other regions of Colombia. Their objective, however, Escobar concludes, “is not to receive awards”, although they do recognize “the great support” for the social work they carry out and that encourages them to “continue working and eradicate this problem.”


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