State’s helping hand needed to break teenage pregnancy crisis

At age 15, Claire*, the daughter of a rice farmer, wanted to start a business in a big city. A year later she became her mother and she had to abandon that dream of hers.

That was early 2021. Her then-boyfriend was celebrating his birthday. Their state was under a modified general community quarantine, the most relaxed state of quarantine in the country at the time, and his relatives stayed home. With her revelry distracting others, her 22-year-old boyfriend, Jake*, locked her bedroom door and asked Claire not to give in to her own desires. , said not to let her go to her home.

Stop whining, he told her, nothing happens after the first. That was the moment that changed Claire’s life.

After eight weeks, Claire’s sisters noticed that their periods were late. She initially admitted to keeping her condition a secret from her family. “I hid it because it was my sisters who sent me to school,” she admitted in Cebuano. The teenage girl was grateful that her family decided to accept her despite her circumstances.

Claire’s baby is now one year old and is learning to walk and talk. She lamented that her daughter may never meet her biological father because Jake abandoned her father not long after the baby was born.

The couple initially tried to make it work. Claire moved in with Jake’s family when she was four months pregnant, but Jake found a part-time job at a local shopping mall to pay the bills. However, despite the small but steady monthly income his job offered was P5,000 for him, Jake quit after two months because he didn’t like the job. Instead, he worked at his best friend’s computer repair shop.He also tried to make a career out of his passion for video games mobile legend but failed.

To make matters worse, Claire said she was very uncomfortable being home with Jake’s parents. I was. His mother refused to say a word to her. “It’s a scary feeling when you’re alone and no one around you talks to you. I felt so unwelcome,” she said of Bisaya.

Jake humiliated her in public whenever she felt she was demanding too much. “He took pity on me because I said I couldn’t support the boy who won Mobile Legends.,” she said.

(he will call me poor Because I told him I wasn’t sure I could feed a baby with his winnings. mobile legend tournament. )

Concerned about Claire’s mental health, her sisters decided to take care of the young mother and her five-month-old baby. Jake stopped providing financial support three months after him.

Claire is just one of 386,000 Filipinos who start having children between the ages of 15 and 19, according to preliminary results from the 2021 Young Fertility Study (YAFS5) by the University of the Philippines Population Research Institute.

National situation

At a media forum on the Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention Bill on November 29 last year, Population and Development Commission (POPCOM) Regional Director Jakirin Lobel said 155 babies will be born to minors every day in 2020. said.

According to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) 2020 Policy Brief, as a result, the Philippines loses about P33 billion in revenue each year due to adolescent pregnancies.

Stakeholders on House Bill (HB) 79 and Senate Bill (SB) 372 listen to a variety of video messages from government officials. (L to R): Atty. Rep. Jay Bekema, Senator Lisa Hontiveros. Partido Mangagawa Executive Director Judy Ann Chan Miranda. Albay MP Edcel Lagman; Girls Act Pauline Tepait; Population and Development Commission NCR Jacqueline Lovell Regional Director. Carmela Bondoc, Quezon City Youth Advocate; Graciela Moises, feminist advocate; Photo credit: AIDS Healthcare Foundation.

The economic impact of teenage pregnancy can be traced back to the sudden cessation of young parents’ education. Preliminary results from YAFS5 show that 8% of Filipinos aged 15 to 24 dropped out of school because of pregnancy or someone else’s pregnancy.

Clare is no exception. Although she acknowledged the importance of her education, she admitted that her mother had to drop out of high school during her teenage years. She wanted to complete her business administration degree, but she had to put her baby’s needs before her own.

Girls Act Pauline Tepeit
Pauline Tepait of the advocacy group Girls Act points to the lack of state programs and curricula that portray sexuality positively and help adolescents best manage their sexual and reproductive health.

Edel Hernandez, president of the non-governmental organization Medical Action Group (MAG), said in a 2021 interview with VERA Files that teenage pregnancies can disrupt a young parent’s education. Her organization began tackling the root causes of teenage pregnancies in Guiuan, Samar in 2015 through peer-to-peer programs and collaboration with local schools and health departments.

Without educational opportunities, young parents will remain in the cycle of poverty. “they come back and return zero” Hernandez warned. (They keep returning to zero.)

The reason Anne, the mother of 17 and Claire’s cousin, became a working student is fear of falling into a vicious cycle of poverty. Aside from navigating modular learning as a high school student, Ann helped her mother run a trading business. She is often seen selling clothes, groceries, and sometimes her hair at local trading groups.

Hernandez added that opportunities for further education must be supplemented with employment opportunities for young parents to escape this vicious circle of poverty. The social stigma of young mothers limits their opportunities.

As a result of adolescent birth rates continuing to rise, former President Rodrigo Duterte declared teenage pregnancy a “national emergency” on June 25, 2021 through Executive Order 141s. 2021 years.

state intervention

More than a year after President Duterte declared adolescent pregnancy a national emergency, bills to prevent teen mothers have been introduced in both the House and Senate.

At a media forum hosted by the Reproductive Health Advocacy Network, the AIDS Healthcare Foundation and the Young Feminist Collective on Nov. 29, groups and government agencies pass two bills in Congress aimed at preventing teenage pregnancies. asked to let House Bill (HB) 79 and Senate Bill (SB) 372.

Albay MP Edsel Lagman (second from right), lead author of HB 79, with Girls Act member and feminist advocate Graciella Moises (third from right), and Quezon City youth development advocate Carmela Bondoc (right). 3rd from ). Photo credit: AIDS Healthcare Foundation

Edcel Lagman, lead author of HB 79 and Alvey District 1 MP, says the country may not benefit from the demographic dividend if it fails to curb adolescent pregnancy rates. .

“No child needs to go through the trauma of pregnancy and childbirth. No child needs to grow up overnight to care for another human being,” said Lagman. Read: Is Having 110 Million Filipinos Good Or Bad?)

Both HB 79 and SB 372 aim to reduce the number of teen mothers through: for adolescent needs.

Both bills are currently pending at the Commission level. He is scheduled for a hearing on February 3rd.

Congress is set to decide the fate of these bills, but adolescent mothers like Ann continue to study and work, breaking through the social stigma against young mothers like her.” placed [the work] By doing so, I show people that their judgment of me is not true,” she said.

Claire, on the other hand, wants her daughter to continue attending school when she’s older and to get the business degree she’s dreamed of. “The community usually sees teenage mothers like us as helpless. I like to gossip and often men leave us. And that makes me a strong woman and mother,” she said in Cebuano.

*Claire, Jake, and Anne’s real names have been changed to protect their identities and privacy.

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