IN CELEBRATION of the World Population Day on July 11, the Population Commission (PopCom) in northern Mindanao celebrated the day anchored on the theme “Investing in Young People.”
PopCom said the youth, which comprises nearly 20 percent of the country’s population, is an investment for a better society.
It also said the country’s population would reach 100 million by 2014 where the adolescents, 10-19 age group, constitute 21.49 percent; and the young people, 10-24 years age group, account for 30.55 percent, the 2010 census of population record showed.
The youth, 15-24 years, on the other hand, comprises 18 percent of the population with an annual growth rate 2.1 based on the 2013 4th Young Adult Fertility and Sexuality Study (YAFS 4).
Period of transition
The youth is best understood as a period of transition -- from school to work, from dependence to autonomy and into sexual maturity. It is during this transition that they face many health development problems.
Substance use and alcohol consumption, sexually transmitted infections (STI) including the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) that leads to the acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (Aids), unwanted pregnancies, nutritional deficiencies that affect their lives adversely.
“Making investment at this stage of their lives will generate great returns and help them take this transition a successful one,” said Lydio M. Español, PopCom regional director for northern Mindanao.
The YAFS 4 data showed that one in three of the youths have engaged in early sexual intercourse.
A comparison of the results of YAFS 3 and 4 showed a narrowing gap in levels of premarital sex between males, 31.2 percent, in 2002 to 35.5 in 2013; and in females, 23.2 percent, in 2002 to 32.0 percent in 2013.
Aside from engaging in early sexual intercourse, the youth have also engaged in other risky sexual activities such as casual sex (7.3 percent), “FUBU” experience (3.5 percent) and male having sex with male (MSM) experience (5.3 percent).
Most of these risky sexual activities are unprotected and would likely result to pregnancy and/or STIs.
With regard to teenage fertility, the 2013 YAFSS showed that among women 15-19 years old, 11 percent are already mothers; 2.6 percent are pregnant with first child and 13.6 percent have begun childbearing.
“All these findings suggest that young people of today are facing sexual and non-sexual risks and are more challenged in several ways. They are unaware of the consequences of these risks and many are ill-prepared to face the consequences,” Español said.
PopCom said the negative effects of these risky behaviors include dropping or leaving school.
If it happens, their education is interrupted and they will have increased chances of being unemployed or underemployed, thus limiting their opportunities to provide a stable future for their children.
They will find themselves faced with numerous responsibilities in which they are unprepared and may lead to other psychological and emotional problems such as anger and disillusionment.
PopCom said investing in young people’s sexuality and reproductive health is one of the effective ways to improve their social and economic status.
Thus, it is pursuing programs and projects to help adolescents and youth avoid pre-marital sex, teenage pregnancies, early marriages, sexually transmitted infections and other psychosocial concerns.
Among these projects are: Adolescents sexuality and reproductive health classes. These classes are designed to provide age-appropriate and values-laden sexuality and reproductive health education to third and fourth year high school students.
Students are taught with the different life skills enabling them to deal effectively the demands and challenges of everyday life.
These life skills include the abilities for adaptive and positive behavior such negotiating skills, refusal skills and life-planning skills.
U4U Project (You-for-You) is the Youth Hub Initiative of PopCom-10, supported by the UN Population Fund (UNFPA).
This project aims to deliver critical information to Filipino teens aged (10-19) to prevent teen pregnancy and reduce the prevalence of sexually transmitted infections through online and mobile platforms.
U4U platforms comprise the online portal (www.u4u.ph), social media (Facebook, Twitter, Youtube), Interactive Voice Response System and Teen Trail (by texting U4U and sending it to (0915) 523-8885 Globe, (0908) 158-8885 Smart, a voice recording system will call the texter and provide answers to questions related to adolescent sexuality).
There will be launching of U4U in Ozamiz City, Cagayan De Oro City and Bukidnon City within this year.
Short filmmaking and festival
PopCom-10 envisions this project as an innovative approach of putting forward the ill consequences of the risky sexual behaviors of adolescents and young people.
Short filmmaking and festival will create a pool of communicators who can help promote ARH and sexuality education in the schools and barangays to help reduce teenage pregnancy.
Schools including colleges and universities will be invited to be participants in this contest. They will be required to promote their own film in schools of their choice.
The films will revolve around the slogan “Ang Edukasyon ay Para sa Hinaharap, Huwag Ipagpalit sa Sandaling Sarap.”
Establishment and maintenance of teen centers allows the young people to receive counseling services from PopCom, PPO-trained peer helpers and teen center coordinators.
At present, there are three operational teen centers, namely: Oro Youth Center, Jasaan Teen Center and Tubod Teen Center.
Theses teen centers will serve as the haven where young people can share good practices on responsible sexuality and healthy lifestyle.
Moreover, peer educators of teen centers may also do community outreach activities to reach out to out-of-school adolescents and youth, including students of other schools for the advocacy on issues related to teenage pregnancy.