Partnerships to address teenage pregnancy in the Philippines
Shaina Macmac represented the youth at Babaenihan's grand launch. (Photo by UNFPA)
PUERTO PRINCESA, Philippines – –“I want to be a doctor someday,” said Shaina Macmac, 16, who’s a senior high school student at the WPU-Agricultural Science High School in Palawan, a southwestern province of the Philippines.
“Aspirations in life drive young girls like me to push forward even though we face challenges every day,” she added with a broad smile. And there are challenges.
The Philippines is the only country in Southeast Asia where teenage pregnancy is on the rise, according to a UNFPA study. There are 10 million girls aged 10-19 years old in the country today. Like Shaina they have hopes and dreams. But by age 19, 1 in 5 girls will be a mother, according to the 2013 Philippine National Demographic and Health Survey.
“I have seen in my community when a girl becomes pregnant, her life changes dramatically,” said Shaina. “Some stop pursuing their education and their job opportunities diminish. She becomes more vulnerable to poverty and her health often suffers,” she added.
Filipino girls —especially those who are poor and marginalized— have limited options. Adolescent pregnancy is generally not the result of a deliberate choice – these girls often have little say over decisions affecting their lives. Rather, early pregnancy is a consequence of little or no access to school, information or health care.
Partnership to support girls
To raise awareness about the urgency of addressing teenage pregnancies through investments in education, health and economic opportunities, UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund in partnership with the Office of the Vice President (OVP) launched the Babaenihan Campaign on 11 August 2017 at Western Philippines University.
The campaign’s launch featured an open forum to discuss teenage pregnancy with high school students together with Vice President Leni Robredo and UNFPA Country Representative Klaus Beck.
“Too many young girls do not have access to correct information, advice and services to prevent pregnancy,” explained UNFPA Country Representative Klaus Beck. “The United Nations Population Fund works to address these issues by focusing on the protection and fulfilment of girls’ rights so that no one is left behind.”
The campaign is a call to action for all sectors, public and private as well as civil society to urgently tackle this problem. In the coming months, the Babaenihan campaign will conduct national-level talks, community-based talks, and local government engagement. The community-based talks throughout the Philippines will enable marginalized girls to participate and provide them opportunities to shape the direction of the campaign itself.
“We want to focus on 10- to 19-year-old girls,” Vice President Leni Robredo explained. “We want them to maximize their potential, so we want to hear from them about the challenges they’re facing, particularly teenage pregnancy. We don’t want to create programmes where we dictate upon them. We want to create programmes with them, where they are the ones who tell us what they think is the assistance they need.” She added. Babaenihan is the first ever campaign on the prevention and response to teenage pregnancy supported by the highest female official in the country.
“I’m very grateful to participate in the launch of the campaign. It means a great deal to me and many other girls that our voices are heard and we’re empowered” said Shaina who spoke at the Babaenihan launch.