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Last Updated: Tuesday, 18 December 2007, 11:25 GMT
'I was made to give up my daughter'
Luisa*, 16, is living with her one-year-old daughter in a home for young mothers in Guatemala City run by Casa Alianza, a non-profit organisation which helps children living on the streets and vulnerable teenagers.

I was in a relationship with a guy and I got pregnant. My mother was really angry about it. She banned me from seeing him and we took the decision to have an abortion.

A doll on a swing in the young mother's home run by Casa Alianza
Luisa's parents pressured her to give up her daughter

I went with this lady to have injections to induce an abortion but it didn't work.

Then my aunt found an ad in the paper that offered help to pregnant teenagers.

My aunt and I went to the city to see the people and soon afterwards they called to say they had a place for me in a home already. I stayed with them until I had the baby.

I wasn't the only one there. There were six, seven, eight girls in the pregnancy home, some older and some younger than me.

We didn't really talk - we were kept in our rooms almost all the time. Our families would come to visit once a week.

The people at the home didn't say anything about adoption for a while. Then, when the baby was born, they asked me if I wanted to give her up for adoption or if I wanted to keep her.

The lawyer told me she would give me money for the baby

My parents and I decided that we would give her up, although from the start I didn't really want to.

The adoption lawyer made me sign some documents and some blank papers. I asked why I had to sign these blank papers and she said it was for the adoption process.

My baby was born on 21 November 2006 and they took her away from me on 7 December.

The lawyer told me she would give me money for the baby but I said I didn't want anything.

Lawyer's threat

So why did I agree? Well, my parents didn't have very much money and these people told me that the baby would have a home and education.

But at the same time I didn't feel good about giving her up. From the day I did, I cried all day every day, and when I saw people with their babies I felt I was a really bad mother.

After that, I got together with the guy again and he asked me about the girl. He knew I was giving her up but he didn't agree with it.

We decided to go to the adoption lawyer's office and ask her if I could have my baby back. She said no.

The lawyer gave me two options. She said I had to give my baby up, or my boyfriend.

She told me that if I didn't give up my baby, she would have an arrest warrant issued for him because I was under-age and he was 20, so he'd had sex with a minor.

She also said I would have to repay everything she had spent on me - for the Caesarean section, the medical bills, the costs for my time in the pregnancy home.

At that point, I decided to leave things the way they were. We had no money to pay.

'Amazing love'

A while later I received a call from the lawyer, saying my parents and I had to go to the PGN (Solicitor General's Office) to sign the adoption papers.

Mural on a wall at Casa Alianza
Casa Alianza's home for young mothers offers help and education

The lawyer there asked if I wanted to give my baby up. This was my chance to say no - which I did.

My parents got very angry and left me in the street outside the office. But with my sister's support, I signed the papers to say I'd changed my mind - and now here I am with my baby.

I talked to my mother for the first time today [since it happened] and she said she wants me back in the family home with the baby.

But I'd rather live with my boyfriend. He can offer me everything I need for the baby because he's working here in the city, and I want to go with him and have my own life.

I'm really happy to have my daughter back. She's just had her first birthday.

I'd tell girls in the same situation as I was to keep their babies, to keep fighting because they are worth it and the love you have for them is amazing.

* Name changed to protect her identity

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