BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - Mississippi's alarming teen pregnancy rate is the reason several South Mississippi businesses, organizations and sororities joined forces for the Second Annual Saving Our Sisters Summit.
I had the pleasure to briefly attend the summit last year and I was honored when organizers asked me to take a more hands on approach at this year's summit. I have always been committed to helping the youth, especially young women.
Before speaking to the group of more than 3,000 young women and their mothers, I prayed that I would be able to enlighten them about choices.
Young women need to know that they can choose to say no. They can choose better friends. They can choose not to become victims of circumstance.
Over the past few weeks, I've heard a barrage of statistics when it comes to teens, sex, pregnancy and STDs.
Let's face it, kids are having sex. Some are having sex as young as 10-years-old. That's crazy! At 10, the only thing I was thinking about was playing with Barbies and watching cartoons.
Now teens are bombarded with sexual images. There's sex on TV, sex on the internet, sex in magazines. It's making them curious and when mom or dad is not home, many will experiment.
As a result, the state is producing young mothers, confused young fathers, and an STD rate that's steadily on the rise.
So where should we focus: Abstinence or safe sex?
The Christian in me screams abstinence. Safe sex means NO sex. It's the only healthy strategy that will save teens from the emotional baggage that comes along with having sex too soon.
Since Mississippi is an anti-abortion, conservative state, for the most part, abstinence is the only message many teens are getting. But how effective is that message, if it's the only message?
Many will agree that while abstinence is the most reliable form of protection, it is not the form most teenagers will choose.
According to a 2007 CDC study, almost two-thirds of high school seniors are sexually active. The same study finds that 22 percent of those teens have had at least four partners.
Like it or not, teens are 'doing it.' If your child isn't, he/she has a friend who is, and you have to worry about how that friend is influencing your child.
That's why we need to teach not only abstinence in schools, but we also need to start talking more to teens about the risks and consequences associated with having unprotected sex.
The Saving Our Sisters Summit was just one way to try and curtail Mississippi's teen pregnancy problem. However, the conversations should not be limited to an annual affair.
We can't wait for a superstar like Fantasia Barrino or other community leaders to have a conversation that should have started at home.
Some may say, 'It's not my problem,' or 'That's only happening in the impoverished areas.' Wrong! Teens are having sex or performing sexual acts in all communities. And if Mississippi doesn't take the lead in teaching abstinence AND safe sex, we are going to find ourselves in an even bigger mess.
President Barack Obama supports adding other forms of contraception to the lessons as a part of an age appropriate, medically accurate program in hopes of reducing teen pregnancy.
Hopefully Congress will support the President and update the programs being taught in schools.
In the meantime, we can't wait for government entities to save our children. We must take a stand as a community and commit to educating our youth about the consequences of risky sexual behavior.