By Victor Layug
This is the fifth in a series of Mulat Pinoy’s coverage of selected topics from the 1st National Summit on Teen Pregnancy, conducted on September 14, 2012 at the Heritage Hotel, Manila.
May-i Fabros of Womanhealth Philippines began her talk by stating how thankful she was for the numbers and statistics that verified and proved the long running Calvary of teenage mothers, which many chose not to believe for the longest time for lack of verifying data. She was also thankful for everyone’s attendance at the event, not just so they can discuss the current state of today’s teen mothers but also because it’s not easy to discuss such a sensitive issue.
Ms. Fabros then spoke of how a psalm in the Bible speaks of what a woman should be. She should be working, earning, working at home, taking care of the kids, and be a wife, but in all honesty, what kind of life is that? She explained that this topic is very dear to her.
Despite not being a teenage mom herself, her daughter, aged 8, is on the verge of becoming a teenager herself. She is thankful that she was able to finish her studies before having a child, which is unlike the majority of cases of teenage mothers nowadays. Most teenage mothers are poor, haven’t studied or graduated, and come from rural places. While there are cases of teenage pregnancies happening in urban areas, a vast majority come from far-flung provinces.
Referring to a statistic that illustrates the number of teenage mothers aged 10-15 who were registered, she mentioned that there are even more mothers out there who are unregistered and therefore not part of the said statistic. Without the money and time to register, these women’s stories are unheard.
In this day and age, everything is hastened; everything happens early. Most of us have heard stories of how girls as young as age 10 can conceive a child, yet there are now reports of girls as young as age 8 experiencing their first menstrual cycle. This, of course, means that they are fertile, and can be impregnated. Yet, we do now know of their stories or the pressure they experience.
One of the things that has recently changed is the number of those in rural areas who choose to marry early, most of them in Visayas and Mindanao, with some couples as young as 14. The culture and situation is changing, yet the concepts of poverty and culture are not.
Ms. Fabros also spoke of how most girls who have their first sexual encounter at age 10-14 are often forced into engaging in these acts, and how it is often these girls who experience pregnancy unprepared. She then spoke of how in 2007, there were news articles of how an 11-year-old girl in Bulacan was pregnant, yet there were rumors of one girl as young as age 9 having a child.
This should not happen. These girls are still children, and should not undergo such experiences at such a young age. Because of their youth and relative inexperience with how to handle such situations, they are left without a clue as to who to approach. They know not who to talk to, who to approach. May-I herself first told a friend when she first learned that she was with child simply because she didn’t know who to open up to.
What’s even more frightening is how there would be very little to no budget set aside by the government to address the issues of these young women. Ms. Fabros recounted the tale of how some women seeking assistance for the delivery of their child were met with judging eyes by the domestic health workers at health centers, merely because of old-fashioned notions of what a woman should be at a certain age, which leaves teenage mothers at a loss both for words and assistance, as if the trials of motherhood weren’t enough.
Probably the most shocking things nowadays is when people hear that a young girl is with child, a girl as young as 10 or 11 years old, they are no longer surprised, which wasn’t the case a few years ago. Children these days don’t just need education; they also need to be taught how to use that education to improve their lives, to safeguard against the potential pitfalls of becoming a young mother. The countless unregistered teen pregnancies don’t just need to be registered and counted; they also need to be acted upon. Girls as young as 10 years old have kids, while still being children themselves, and are forced to put their own growth on hold.
Ms. Fabros ended her talk with an assertion: “I hope we can find a way to stop our kids from have kids at their age.”
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