Multi-stakeholder summit underscored need to combat alarming teenage pregnancy rates in the Philippines
The Family Planning Organization of the Philippines (FPOP), International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF) and Organon Philippines joined forces to confront one of the most critical public health challenges facing the nation: adolescent pregnancies. Through “Addressing Adolescent and Unintended Pregnancies Summit,” they emphasized the need to address the burden of adolescent pregnancies and set a path to a healthier and more empowered future for young girls.
Held last September 15, this summit coincides with World Contraception Day, emphasizing the urgency and significance of the issue. It brings together key stakeholders, experts, and advocates to identify existing efforts and initiatives, unveil recommendations from adolescent girls and young women, and garner the commitment and support needed to prevent and address adolescent and unintended pregnancies in the Philippines.
The Summit underscored the need for appropriate and effective public policy to prevent teenage pregnancy and its consequences. “We welcome the recent approval of the Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention Bill at the lower house and the similar efforts being initiated at the Senate. We are pinning high hopes that these new legislative measures on top of the existing ones, if finally passed, will eventually lead to positive impact against the issue,” Mr. Nandy Senoc, FPOP Executive Director.
On the same note, a representative of the Office of Senator Risa Hontiveros, a women’s health champion added “Ang panukulang ito ay kailangan hindi lang ng kabataan, kundi patinan ng kanilang mga pamilya at buong komunidad. This bill pushes for the social protection of young parents by ensuring that our young mothers are getting the healthcare necessary at all stages of their pregnancy.”
Meanwhile, experts also pointed out that a crucial gap that needs to be addressed is the strengthening of non-collaborative mechanisms among key stakeholders. “Hopefully, this summit will provide us with the opportunity to discuss our different roles and, more importantly, to enable young people to achieve their aspirations and reach their full potential,” noted Lolito Tacardon, Deputy Executive Director, Commission on Population and Development.
The Department of Education (DepEd) echoed this and emphasized that teenage pregnancy can be addressed through multistakeholder collaboration. “It can be addressed by how the adult population takes cognizance of the problems that beset the youth, how the youth take responsibility of their own development, and together work on how the young people can emerge as winners in this situation,” noted Dr. Jocelyn DR Andaya, Director IV, DepEd Bureau of Curriculum.
The Philippines currently grapples with one of the highest teenage pregnancy rates among ASEAN member-states, with a staggering 182,500 adolescent girls either becoming pregnant or giving birth annually. This alarming statistic surpasses global and regional averages, as reported by the United Nations Population Fund (UNPFA).
“When we delve into adolescence and adolescent pregnancy, we encounter three fundamental arguments,” noted Dr. Charl Andrew Bautista, National Program Officer on Population and Development, UNFPA. “These arguments revolve around the issues of rights, developmental imperatives, and a demographic necessity.”
“The data reinforces the crucial role of family, particularly parents and their friends, in shaping the reproductive behavior of adolescents,” shared Prof. Maria Paz N. Marquez, Associate
Professor, UP Population Institute. “There is a lack of knowledge about sex and a low level of contraception. This lack of knowledge may be one of the factors driving early and unprotected sexual behavior and, ultimately, early childbearing.
“Teenage pregnancy is not merely a statistic. It represents the lives of our young citizens, their dreams, aspirations, and the future of our country. It is a complex and multifaceted issue that requires our collective attention, care, and commitment,” related Dipolog City Mayor Darel Dexter Uy.
Adolescent pregnancies not only pose a grave risk to the health of both mother and child but also hinder educational attainment and employment prospects for young mothers, which, in turn, affects the nation’s economic development. To combat this crisis, a comprehensive sex education program, combined with enhanced access to counseling, contraceptives, and healthcare services for adolescents, is imperative.
“The forthcoming bills currently awaiting approval in Congress could truly be game-changers. It is crucial for adolescents to embrace and actively support the passage of these bills, “ said Roberto Ador, Consultant, IPPF. “In accordance with the principle of recognizing the evolving capacities of adolescents aged 15 to below 18 years, the bills propose to grant access to reproductive health services without the requirement of parental or guardian consent.”
From the perspective of the healthcare industry, Andreas Daugaard Jørgensen, Managing Director, Organon Southeast Asia talked about the company’s commitment in the fight against teenage pregnancy. “Unintended pregnancies, especially among youth and adolescents, pose a significant challenge because they can severely limit young women’s ability to decide about their future. As a healthcare company, we focus on selling and marketing contraceptive options, ensuring that affordable contraceptives are accessible to those who need them the most.”
“We aim to prevent 120 million unintended pregnancies worldwide by 2030. We collaborate closely with government and non-government organizations to ensure these options are readily available to the populations that need them and that they come with comprehensive sexual and reproductive health education,” he added.
The “Addressing Adolescent and Unintended Pregnancies Summit” is a pivotal step forward in the fight against adolescent pregnancies in the Philippines. It signals a united front against this pressing issue and serves as a call to action for all stakeholders, from policymakers and healthcare providers to educators and communities. Together, we can create a future where every young girl has the power and opportunity to plan her destiny, free from the burdens of unintended pregnancy.