School closures is one of the factors for the cause of teenage pregnancy, findings from a Department of Science and Technology - National Research Council of the Philippines (DOST-NRCP) research show.
In the context of COVID-19 pandemic in the Philippines, where there are 7.3 million Filipinos who lost their jobs and where schools had been closed since March 2020, there are concerns such as young girls being vulnerable to early pregnancy since they are out of their usual protective physical setting of the school environment.
In 2019 or before the pandemic, some 2,411 girls aged 10 to 14 gave birth. The surge of pregnant teenagers in the country has been long observed in the past 11 years.
According to a two-month study of the DOST-NRCP led by Dr. Gloria Luz Nelson, NRCP member of Division VIII (Social Sciences), a sociologist by training with concentration on Population Studies, the pandemic is not the cause of teenage pregnancy, but several mediating factors such as, school closures, dysfunctional family, and lack of access to sexual and reproductive health education.
The two-month study retells the stories of 18 teenagers and extracts from their stories the meanings they attached to their experiences as being young, pregnant, and mother during the pandemic. The stories are the data gathered through screen-mediated in-depth interviews (Facebook, Messenger). The respondents are from the nine provinces or seven regions in the Philippines.
“Pregnancy for them means taking a time off from their studies”, Nelson said.
As reported by the Philippine Statistics Authority on Tuesday, February 9, two 10-year-old from Metro Manila and Southern Luzon have become mothers at their child age.
Is it possible that the reason why the two kids aged 10, who are not yet teenagers, got pregnant and became mothers at a very early age was because of either of the three mediating factors?
Filipino Pregnant Teenagers and Teenage Mothers During the COVID-19 Pandemic Crisis
The study done by Dr. Nelson and Mari Juni Paulette B. Gonzales also shows that the 18 participants are generally happy with their new roles as mothers and mostly rely on their families and partners for financial and emotional support. It is also worth noting that none of them have considered having an abortion, committing suicide, and suffering from domestic violence.
The NRCP researchers also extracted from their stories that for the youth (participants) their pregnancies were unplanned but not unwanted. Just like any other pregnancies, theirs are the consequence of non-use of family planning methods that their children are blessings and source of their inspiration. With this, majority of those who drop out due to the pregnancy, have expressed desire to continue their studies in order to provide a better future for their newborn. In spite of these burdens, the teens remain optimistic and hopeful for the future.
However, they found that regardless of their circumstances (pregnant or mother) during the pandemic, and whether they are solo parents, in consensual union or married, the teens face multiple burdens such as low to no income, low education, less employment opportunities, and health risk for both the teen mother and children.
Recommendations out of the NRCP study
This study of NRCP has once again shed light on the needs of the vulnerable population (children and teenagers). Dr. Nelson also studied the Teenage Pregnancy during the Typhoon Yolanda and Ruby in Eastern Samar in 2017.
Through this two-month study, the NRCP researcher recommends the mobilization of all social institutions from the family, government and civil groups because teenage pregnancy like the pandemic is a social problem and a social emergency. This can only be reduced through an intensive effort of every individual and the society.
According to Sociologist Nelson, the surest way is to have programs and policies to make the youth stay in school so that through education they improve their human capital, have access to reproductive health care, make informed decisions, and break away from intergenerational poverty.
It is strongly recommended to enact the Teenage Pregnancy Act and culturally appropriate implementing rules and regulations that would mitigate teenage pregnancy in the country.
NRCP KTOP-COVID Webinar
The NRCP tells the stories of Filipino pregnant teenagers and teenage mothers during the COVID-19 pandemic crisis during the 7th KTOP-COVID (Kapakanan ng Tao sa Oras ng Pandemya - COVID) webinar series on February 9, 2021 via online.
A total of 310 participants from government agencies including the regional offices, Commission on Population, Department of Social Welfare and Development, DOH, IATF, National Security Council, National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC), schools (University of the Philippines (UP) Diliman, UP Los Baños, UP Manila, Cebu, Mindanao, Cambridge Child Development Center, DM Training Inc., Cuenca Senior High School, SLU, Eastern Samar State University), media, aside from the viewers in the livestreaming at Facebook Research Pod.
“Prevention of early pregnancy among adolescents is a way of protecting children’s rights”, said DOST Assistant Secretary for Human Resources Management, Management Services, and Special Concerns, OIC for Gender and Development (GAD) and Regional Support Service and DOST-wide GAD Focal Person, Dr. Diana l. Ignacio, during her message.
“We can learn something from this study which results to some policy recommendations, [maybe] if not in the national government level, [maybe] at the local government level”, said DOST Secretary Fortunato T. de la Peña. The DOST Secretary is a staunch supporter in all NRCP activities especially the KTOPs.
Dr. Gregorio E.H Del Pilar, NRCP President, also gave his thoughts and noted the limited respondents of 18 teenagers who consented for the interview and the positive message that there is no incidence of suicide in his remarks. Dr. Marieta Bañez Sumagaysay, NRCP Executive Director, moderated the KTOP-COVID webinar. (Jenny Leigh Daquioag, RIDD-NRCP)
NOTE: Graphics used were created by Angelo Evangelista, DOST-NRCP Graphic Artist