Teenage pregnancy remains a problem in the Philippines where four of 10 teenagers are mothers, according to Klaus Beck, country representatives of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).
Beck cited a study that showed that at least P33 billion in earnings is lost annually due to teenage pregnancy, which is also the main cause of maternal death.
Combating young pregnancy, Beck said, is literally a matter of life and death.
“The Philippines is the only country in Asia and the Pacific where we have not seen a decrease in teenage pregnancy in the last two decades. In fact, we are seeing an increase,” he said.
The most recent study conducted in 2013 showed that 57 in 1,000 girls aged 15 to 19 were pregnant. In 2008, the ratio was 53: 1,000.
“Whenever a girl’s potential goes unrealized, we all lose,” Beck said Thursday during the launch of UNFPA’s State of World Population (SWOP) Report for 2016.
The official urged parents to provide age appropriate sex education which can start as early as age five.
He said the more young people know about sex, the less they will do it.
Cariza “Aiza” Seguerra, chairperson of the National Youth Commission (NYC), agreed, saying the implementation of the Responsible Parenthood-Reproductive Health law which encourages the practice of responsible and safe sex is not enough.
She said this is because the youth below 18 years old need parental consent to gan access to the services provided by the law.
“Who would go and tell their parent that they want to get a condom?” she said.
Seguerra encouraged parents to communicate openly with their children.
She added sex and health education should start in the family.
The UNFPA said the world’s future depends on 10-year-old girls.
Experts identified ten as the pivotal age for girls because it is the start of their puberty.
The agency said developing economies stand to win an extra $21 billion if they improve girls’ health and sex education.
Girls in developing countries are less likely than boys to complete schooling because of forced marriage, child labor and female genital mutilation, risking the opportunities presented by their largely young populations, said the study, launched in London.
“Over the next 15 years alone, developing countries together stand to gain or forfeit at least $21 billion, depending on whether or not they invest in the well-being, education, and independence of their 10-year-old girls today,” it said.
“When the right policies and institutions are in place to build young people’s human capital, a developing country can see dramatic economic growth… leading to a demographic dividend, a unique opportunity for economic progress and poverty reduction”.
Girls are currently less likely to be enrolled in secondary education in Arab countries and most of Africa — home to 70 per cent of the world’s 10-year-olds today.
Sixteen million girls aged between six and 11 will never start school — twice the number of boys.
“For 10-year-old girls, a potential tripling of their lifetime income is at stake. For the societies the girls are a part of, the reduction of poverty is at stake,” said the report.
Many girls fail to finish their education after getting married in early adolescence, and UNFPA urged countries to impose a minimum age of marriage of 18.
Every day, an estimated 47,700 girls get married before that age, they said.
Comprehensive sexuality education programs should also be expanded to 10-year-old girls in order to protect their health and take control of their own fertility, it advised.
“Many girls may not have a safe forum in which to ask questions about these topics, which in many communities are still considered taboo,” it said.
“Access to contraceptives for adolescents and women of childbearing age is crucial.”
The study gave India and China as examples of the progress possible if developing countries harnessed their youthful populations.
Such booms can lead to increased labor force participation, increased earnings, increased longevity and smaller families, but will only materialize with swift action, warned the study. Micah Yvana M. Vardeleon with AFP