Group pitches in to curb Philippines' rising cases of teen mothers

Group pitches in to curb Philippines' rising cases of teen mothers
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JOSIE, a mother from Eastern Visayas region, realized the importance of positive parenting in taking care of her young child, Maria (not her real name).

“Looking back, I realize the significance of equipping my children with the tools to understand consent and fostering open dialogue,” said Josie, as her 11-year-old daughter became a victim of sexual abuse from her landlord’s teenage son.

As the world celebrates this year’s International Women’s Day, the humanitarian organization for children Save the Children Philippines hopes to draw attention to early and unintended pregnancies among very young girls.

"We call upon the government to prioritize comprehensive access to sexual and reproductive health information and services, conduct massive awareness-raising campaigns, and strengthen health systems to safeguard the safety and well-being of our children,” said Save the Children’s Technical Adviser for Adolescent Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights Shebana Alqaseer.

“Additionally, we encourage parents to engage in open and healthy conversations with their children about sexuality and reproductive health to empower them to make informed choices,” she added.

The international call to curb teenage pregnancy and early sexual advances in the Philippines came following the alarming 35 percent increase in pregnancies among young Filipinos, aged 10-14.

“In an effort to address this alarming trend, the leading child rights organization calls on families and the government to join forces in educating children about their rights and reproductive health,” Save the Children said in a statement on March 1, 2024.

In 2022, the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) recorded 3,135 cases of adolescent pregnancies among young girls, showing a 35 percent increase from the 2,320 cases recorded in 2021.

PSA has noted a concerning upward trend in teenage pregnancies under the age of 15 since 2017, according to the humanitarian group.

Since then, the Philippines continues to have one of the highest teenage pregnancy rates in Asia, it added.

Save the Children maintained that the rising prevalence of adolescent pregnancy, which is now regarded as a national problem, cannot be traced to a single cause.

“Rather, it is the result of a combination of biological, social, and cultural factors. These factors contributed to adolescent sexuality and reproductive health issues,” the humanitarian organization said.

Among the factors cited by the group that lead to teenage pregnancy issues among Filipinos include early sexual debut, limited access to comprehensive sex information and education, and inadequate communication skills among parents, whom adolescents identify as one of their preferred sources of information regarding sexual reproductive health.

Also, the country continues to face problems with a lack of access to family planning services, cultural practices that encourage early union, and the absence of adolescent sexuality and reproductive health policies and their full implementation.

To help minimize the impact of teenage pregnancy among Filipinos, Save the Children Philippines launched the “Healthy, Empowered, and Responsible Teens” or “HEART to Heart” program to help mothers and caregivers improve their communication skills to teach sexuality and reproductive health.

The program, which is implemented across the Philippine archipelago, provides a “positive parenting workshop” to the parents of young mothers.

Despite the situation of Josie's young child, many Filipino parents have remained thankful for availing themselves of proactive parental engagement and community programs in safeguarding the well-being and resilience of adolescent girls.

“Had I participated in the HEART to Heart program sooner, I could have better supported and empowered Maria through her ordeal,” Josie said.

Another 13-year-old mother, Althea (not her real name), also expressed her gratitude to Save the Children, after she was provided with the Family Development Approach sessions.

According to the organization, the program helped Althea “to stand up for herself and not let others belittle her.”

Since 1981, Save the Children has been working in the Philippines in humanitarian response, health and nutrition, education, and children's welfare and protection. (Ronald O. Reyes/SunStar Philippines)


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