By Evan Michael Clerigo, UP Intern
DAVAO CITY — For Dayday Gonzales, 19, being a mother at an early age is not easy.
She was only 14 years old when she got pregnant.
“Ginatabangan ko sa akong mama ug papa [sa akong pagbuntis] (My mother and father helped [me during my pregnancy]),” Gonzales said as she recalled the first five months of her pregnancy.
Dayday is among the 95 percent or 19 in 20 youth who had never discussed sex at home while growing up. She is also among the 17 percent of young girls in Davao Region who begun childbearing at the age of 15-19 years old.
Davao Region, which ranked fifth, posted a rate on teenage fertility higher than the national average of 14 percent.
Sexually active youth
The Commission on Population XI said the numbers are alarming.
“These findings can be attributed in part to the fact that 44 percent of female youth from Davao Region have sexual experience,” Popcom XI said.
It added that “38 percent have engaged in pre-marital sex, a giant leap from only 15% in 2002.”
The report also said 2 percent of female youth aged 15-24 have had sex before age 15 and 30 percent in the 18-24 age bracket have had sex before age 18.
“The age at which females had their sexual debut has also become younger at 17 years old, in contrast to 19 years old as recorded in 1994,” the agency said.
Davao Region also placed as the third highest in the number of youth who engage in pre-marital sex in 2013 with 38.5 percent or 370,000, a figure higher by 15.3 points from 23.2 percent in 2002.
Of this number, 295,000 or 8 in 10 participated in their first pre-marital sex encounter without any form of protection against sexually transmitted infections (STIs) or unwanted pregnancies, Popcom XI said.
Investing in teenage girls
As the government, along with the United Nations Population Fund, celebrate World Population Day today, July 11, the Popcom XI aims to help female adolescents ““to realize their potential by opening doors of opportunity for them by pushing for their rights to a proper education, the provision of comprehensive and holistic reproductive health services and the promotion of their welfare” through adolescent friendly initiatives and programs.
This year’s theme, “Investing in Teenage Girls,” focuses on the need for more intensive strategies to address the youth’s risky sexual behavior.
Lack of sexuality education
Gabriela Chairperson Luzviminda Ilagan blamed the lack of education on sexuality among youth as the reason why there is a prevalence of teenage pregnancy.
“The main reason why the rate of teenage pregnancy is high and never decreases is because we lack sexuality education,” Ilagan said during Monday’s Kapehan sa Dabaw press conference.
“We need age-appropriate [and] correct sexuality education, not sex education,” she added.
She said sex education is not effective because most of those who cannot afford education mostly stop at Grade 5. These youth will not be able to educate themselves about their sexuality.
She also said that aside from education, family planning method should be made available, free, affordable, and effective.
“Government has failed to provide the necessary assistance,” she said as she emphasized that most health centers lack support system from the government.
Teenage mothers like Dayday need these kinds of support, especially that her parents only earn a meager amount of money through selling goods in a public market.
Despite the suspension of Reproductive Health Law, Ilagan is hopeful that the budget for the availability of the supplies will be implemented.
She also urged the Department of Health (DOH), as the leading agency, to allow all the health centers and hospitals to provide the necessary supplies.
She also urged the Department of Education (DepEd) to continue their mandate in giving appropriate sexuality education to the youth. (davaotoday.com)