Comics to stop teen pregnancies
FROM THE STANDS - Domini M. Torrevillas (The Philippine Star) - December 10, 2019 - 12:00am

I’ve written about teenagers becoming pregnant at very young ages, and I am again pursuing the topic in today’s column. 

I eagerly look forward to reading the first copy of a comic book produced by the Zonta Club of Metro Ortigas. Like many girls, I grew up learning about romances (some in erotic graphics) and aswangs through illustrated comic books bought by our house hold help. Indeed, they were welcome, and listened to, reading fare. (The boys had their education through Captain Marvel and Superman comic books which along with Playboy magazines, they tucked under their mattresses. Of course they learned a lot from those publications.)

Today there is grave concern over the preponderance of pregnancies among young girls. How to inculcate in this vulnerable sector’s mind the hazards of producing babies, let alone getting married, at a tender young age? No amount of lectures, I believe, can convince them that being mothers at age 12-14 should be avoided.

Zonta materials state that a child marriage is any formal marriage or informal union where one or both of the parties are under 18 years of age. Each year, 12 million girls are married before the age of 18 – that is 23 girls every minute or nearly one every two seconds. In the Philippines, girls with little to no education get married before 18. The social impact is an enormous economic loss that is carried over through generations as their children tend to be underfed and undereducated while the child mothers remain in poverty. Thus, teen pregnancy leads to child marriage. I must add that many teenaged mothers do not get married at all.

As a first step in the education of youngsters on the teenage pregnancy issue, the Zonta Club of Metro Ortigas, in collaboration with the Commission on Population, National Capital Region, launched a comic book, Kilala Mo Ba Sila? at the Rizal High School gymnasium in Pasig City on Nov. 29, with 1,000 students in attendance.

According to Jenny Tipton-Angeles, Zonta club head, Zonta joined the international campaign of 16 days of Activism which began Nov. 25, International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women and which runs until today, Dec. 10, which is Human Rights Day. This year’s theme is “Orange the World: Generation Equality Stands Against rape!” In October last year, Zonta was the only private sector partner of the Global Program to Accelerate Action to End Child Marriage. The program aims to bring together all stakeholders in a collective effort to prevent girls from marrying too young and to support those already married as girls.

This year, the club’s response to the global movement is to create a comic book that will serve as a basic tool to start the dialogue that will lead to doable solutions. The comic book project was triggered by the POP-COM-NCR Regional Director Lydio M. Español Jr.’s  report that “about 500 teenage girls give birth in the Philippines every day as more adolescents engage in premarital sex, raising concerns about early and unplanned pregnancies in the world’s 13th most population country.” Says Angeles: “A perfect partner has been found for Zonta’s advocacy.”

The comics will disseminate information on the possible causes, factors and effects of engaging into non-sexual and sexual risk behaviors among young people. Director Español explained that there are different factors affecting the kind of behaviors of today’s youth. As reported by the Young Adults Fertility and Sexuality Further Study of NCR, YAFS3, factors such as the sexual risk-taking behavior and exposure to pornographic materials, particularly X-rated videos, encourage early sex among young people. The activities do not use any form of protection against pregnancy and STI, HIV and AIDS.

The comics, intended to be distributed to students with ages 10-19, initially produced by Zonta contain three stories about young people battling issues on teenage pregnancy, as well as Human Immuno Deficiency Virus (HIV) and early marriage. 

Zonta Club of Metro Ortigas is a member club of Zonta International, a leading global organization that seeks solutions in empowering women through service and advocacy. Its mandate envisions “a world in which women’s rights are recognized as human rights, and every woman is able to achieve her full potential.” Founded in 1919, it has now 29,000 members in 1,200 Zonta Clubs in 63 countries.

In the Philippines, there are some 1,800 members in 51 Zonta Clubs located in different cities. They volunteer to work together with local government units and non-government organizations “in order to create a movement that will break down barriers and build pathways to a gender-friendly environment especially for women and girls.” 

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Being a septuagenarian, I would like to share with my age group a message sent by a good friend, Violeta Lopez Gonzaga of Bacolod City, by Facebook-Messenger. The reminders below we must take to heart to avoid accidents, and stay well and alive.

1. Do not climb staircase. If you must climb, hold on firmly to staircase railings.

2. Do not rapidly twist your head. Warm up your whole body first.

3. Do not bend your body to touch your toe. Warm up your whole body first.

4. Do not stand to wear your pants. Wear your pants while sitting down.

5. Do not sit up when lying face up. Sit up from one side (left hand side, or right hand side) of your body.

6. Do not twist your body before exercise. Warm up whole first.

7. Do not walk backward. Falling backward can result in serious injury.

8. Do not bend your waist to lift heavy objects. Bend your knees and lift a heavy object while half-squatting. (My additional tip: Let somebody else lift the heavy object.)

9. Do not get up fast from bed. Wait a few minutes before getting up from bed.

10. Do not over force defecation. Let it come naturally.

My additional advice: make sure the floor mats in your bathroom are plastered firmly on the floor to avoid slipping. So many of us have broken our backs and legs due to slippery floors.

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