MANILA – Teenaged mothers, especially those of minor age, will now have better chances to bounce back as the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) and the Commission on Population and Development (PopCom) collaborate for a program that will address their needs.
The two agencies on Thursday sealed the Social Protection Program for Teenaged Mothers and their Children (SPPTMC), an information system to identify young mothers.
SPPTMC will provide beneficiaries access to health services like nutrition and mental health support, opportunity to return to school, and a social amelioration program for those belonging to the lowest socioeconomic bracket until they are able to find gainful work or livelihood.
“Through this partnership, we can mutually prevent teenaged pregnancies and establish sufficient and accessible measures to protect the well-being of existing teenage mothers and their children, as envisioned in the Philippine Development Plan and the 2030 agenda for sustainable development,” DSWD Secretary Rolando Bautista said during the virtual ceremony.
The two agencies will combine efforts and resources to combat the adverse effects of adolescent pregnancies.
The national government has directed DSWD and PopCom to undertake the social protection mechanism as a means to alleviate the resultant financial burdens of unintended pregnancies of mothers who are 10 to 19 years old, as well as those of their families.
In January, the Senate tasked DSWD and PopCom to oversee such a program.
A special provision of the 2021 General Appropriations Act states that DSWD “shall develop a social protection program specifically for teenage mothers who are minors and their children,” while PopCom “shall develop recommendations for a social protection program for teen-aged mothers and their children. This shall be submitted to DSWD for integration in their existing social-protection program.”
PopCom chief Dr. Juan Antonio Perez III said adolescent mothers are at a gross disadvantage in terms of potential earnings in their lifetime.
He said early motherhood makes them more economically vulnerable as compared to their peers who finished secondary education and have yet to bear children.
“The lifetime earnings foregone of teenage moms is at least four times less than what they are supposed to receive. Likewise, their condition will bear heavily on a families’ savings by about one-third of every unplanned pregnancy. Thus, we see this social protection initiative as a means to ease their financial burdens,” Perez underscored.
Studies by Plan International (PI), an independent development and humanitarian organization spread out in 75 countries, showed teenaged mothers are usually from poorer and marginalized communities.
“Many girls face considerable pressure to marry early and become mothers while they are still a child. Teenaged pregnancy increases when girls are denied the right to make decisions about their sexual and reproductive health and well-being,” the group said.
Factors such as parental income and the extent of a girl’s education also contribute, the PI said.
“Girls who have received minimal education are five times more likely to become a mother than those with higher levels of education. Pregnant girls often drop out of school, limiting opportunities for future employment and perpetuating the cycle of poverty. In many cases, girls perceive pregnancy to be a better option than continuing their education,” the study showed.
Adolescent pregnancy, according to PI, remains a major contributor to maternal and child mortality. Some 3.9 million unsafe abortions occur each year to girls aged 15 to 19 in developing regions.
Complications relating to pregnancy and childbirth are the leading cause of death for girls aged 15 to 19 globally as they suffer from complications due to their immature bodies.
“Adolescent pregnancy can also have negative social and economic effects on girls, their families, and communities. Unmarried pregnant adolescents may face stigma or rejection by parents and peers as well as threats of violence. Girls who become pregnant before age 18 are also more likely to experience violence within a marriage or partnership,” the PI study showed.
Numbers still up
Data from PopCom showed the Philippines ranks fourth in terms of early childbirth rates among Southeast Asian countries.
The Philippine Statistics Authority’s Civil Registration and Vital Statistics (PSA-CRVS) indicated there were about 171 live births to minors everyday in 2019.
The agency also noted a general increase in the number of births from adolescents aged 10 to 14 in that same year, with about seven giving birth, compared to three daily in 2011.
The PSA-CRVS revealed that in 2015, there were 5,297 repeat pregnancies, or second-time births, among 10- to 17-year-old girls, with only a slight decrease in 2018 at 4,633. (PNA)