Philippines highlights rising teen pregnancy on 1st International Day of Girl Child
Pregnancy among girls under the age of 20 increased by 65 per cent over a 10-year period, from 2000-2010, despite a reverse trend in teen marriages, which is on the decline, according to the National Statistics Office (NSO).
In 2010, live births by teenage mothers registered with the NSO were 207,898, compared with 126,025 in 2000. On the other hand, teenage marriages registered with the agency shows a slow but steady decline from 14.8 per cent in 2000 to 13 per cent in 2010.
The 2011 Family Health Survey also revealed that while childbirth is slowly decreasing among women in the older age groups, it is increasing among girls 15 to 19 years old, from 39 per 1,000 live births in 2006 to 54 in 2011, across all regions in the Philippines. Researches have shown that the lack of comprehensive sexuality education and limited access to adolescent-friendly reproductive health services are key reasons for high incidence of teen pregnancies.
This pressing national issue will be highlighted by the United Nations Population Fund and Plan International as they join forces for the first-ever observance of the International Day of the Girl Child on Thursday, October 11.
“Teenage pregnancy is becoming an epidemic. And this is why I continue to say we are failing our young people. We all know that a young girl, pregnant in her teenage years faces a lot of risks. Her body is not yet fully developed and ready to carry a child. It puts her at risk of complications, even death,” said Ugochi Daniels, UNFPA Country Representative.
“Teenage pregnancy robs a girl child of her right to enjoy a full life. It often pushes her to give up her childhood and forces her to be a mother, even though she is just a child herself. It is not a choice she makes for herself, it is a consequence she has to live with out of lack of information and options,” she added.
If no one takes action, Daniels said, the cycle will go on and ultimately contribute to the long standing issue of poverty that affects most young Filipinos.
Plan International Country Director Carin van der Hor underscored that, “As a signatory to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Philippine government has an obligation to provide the means for the fulfilment of the rights of the child. This includes giving age-appropriate sexuality and reproductive health education.”
On October 11, UNFPA and Plan International will hold a day of wellness and health information activities for public high school students and out of school adolescents in Juan Sumulong High School in Quezon City, with the support of the Department of Health (DOH), Youth Peer Educators Network-Family Planning Organization of the Philippines (Y-PEER-FPOP), Council for the Welfare of Children (CWC), and Lunduyan Foundation.
Adolescents participating in the activities will have the opportunity to consult with doctors regarding health concerns and participate in health information sessions led by youth peer educators. The sessions aim to equip them with knowledge and life skills to prevent teenage pregnancy.
The day will be capped by “Usapang Kabataan” (teen talk), a forum that will tackle teen pregnancy with the school community, to be facilitated by TV personality Boy Abunda, who is also a celebrity advocate for UNFPA and Plan Philippines.
UNFPA has also partnered with NISA Ul Haqq Fi Bangsamoro, a non-government organization, to maximize the observance to bring attention to the harmful tradition of child marriage. The NGO will conduct this through alliance-building activities for the repeal of discriminatory provisions in the Code of Muslim Personal Laws which allow Muslim girls to be married as early as nine years old or when she has reached puberty.
Plan International is likewise actively engaged in the issue of child marriage. Plan in the Philippines forms part of a nine-country initiative to prevent child marriage in Asia.
The UN General Assembly adopted Resolution 66/170 on December 19, 2011, declaring October 11 as International Day of the Girl Child as a way to recognize the human rights of girls and the challenges they face around the world. At the global level, the first observance this year will focus on child marriage, a fundamental human rights violation that impacts all aspects of a girl’s life. (PR)
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