Stopping teen pregnancies

FROM THE STANDS - Domini M. Torrevillas - The Philippine Star

The resurge in teen pregnancies and child brides alarms population and reproductive health advocates. This was the concern raised during the observance of International Day of the Girl Child (IDGC) yesterday.

The International Day of the Girl Child is a United Nations designated day to promote girls’ human rights, highlight gender inequalities and address the various forms of discrimination and abuse suffered by girls around the globe.

Zonta Club of Metro Ortigas (ZCMO) and POPCOM-NCR observed International Day of the Girl Child yesterday via Zoom.

According to ZCMO vice president Maria  Lourdes (Malu) Cortez del Rosario, the goal of ZCMO is to start a discussion on reducing the number of children at risk; for the young girls to start voicing their needs; and pushing for government and community initiatives to create a bigger impact on addressing the needs of our youth.

UN’s definition of child marriage is any formal marriage or informal union where one or both of the parties are under 18 years of age. Globally, more than one in three young women aged 20-24 years were married before they reached age 18. One-third of them entered into marriage before they turned 15. Each year, 12 million girls are married before the age of 18 – that is, 23 girls every minute or nearly one every two seconds.

According to UNICEF, the Philippines has the 12th highest absolute number of child brides in the world at 726,000.

Zonta Club of Metro Ortigas is a member organization of Zonta International, which stands for women’s rights and expands opportunities for women and girls. In 2018, Zonta International embraced a new global program: end child marriage.

“ZCMO’s response is to promote the national call to end child marriage and address the national social emergency call on teen pregnancy,” Maria Lourdes del Rosario, ZCMO vice president, told me by email.

At yesterday’s event, conducted by Zoom, Sen. Risa Hontiveros delivered a 1:40 minute message, followed by Rep. Sarah Jane Elago who presented the House and Senate bills on End Child Marriage; Undersecretary of Population and Development and executive director Dr. Juan Antonio Perez III presented the national social emergency call that 500 child mothers give birth every day. A question he raised was how many of these child mothers come from poor families.

Dr. Alexis Jan Patcsil, educator and advocate, talked about how to empower the young, and Dr. Gilbert Inocencio about children’s rights and human rights and how schools respond to the issues of child brides and child brothers.

Officers of ZCMO are: Jennifer Angeles, president; Maria Lourdes Cortez del Rosario, vice president (external), Josine Ignacio, vice president (internal). Georgia Pangan, secretary; Mia Villavicencio, treasurer; Enriqueta (Baby) Doble, auditor and Amelia Robles, Rosario Javier and Cecile Yasay, directors. Immediate past president was Harvard Uy de Baron.

Parallel to the alarming issue on child marriage is teen pregnancy. According to the Commission of Population and Development, about 500 teenage girls give birth every day as more adolescents engage in premarital sex, raising concerns about early and unplanned pregnancies in the world’s 13th most populated country. Child marriage and teen pregnancy deny a girl of her childhood, disrupt her education, limit her opportunities, increase her risk of violence and abuse, jeopardize her health and therefore constitute an obstacle to the development of healthy communities.

My house help contributes to that figure with the delivery of a baby by her 14-year-old grand child. There was nothing she could do to stop the girl from living in with a 19-year old construction worker. Her daughter – mother of the newly delivered 14-year-old – herself had gotten married at the age of 15! She now has three little children and is pregnant with a fourth addition.

The partnership between ZCMO and POPCOM-NCR started with the publication of the comics “Kilala Mo Ba Sila?” which was launched on Nov. 29, 2019 at Rizal High School in Pasig.

ZCMO will launch the digitized format of one of the three stories in the comics program.

It is also launching an online contest on poster making, jingle writing/singing and song/dance. Entries must be from adolescents aged 15-19. The participants shall upload a photo of the poster or video file by Oct.16. Cash prizes will be, for first prize, P5,000; second prize, P3,000, and third prize, P2,000. Online voting will be on Oct. 24-Nov. 7. For inquiries, call 0988-4887032 or  0921-6058651.

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Email: [email protected]

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