I was pregnant at fifteen and went through so much as an adolescent mother.
I am Simbiat* from Mindanao and I am sharing my story to fellow young girls who went through abuse, discrimination and neglect. In the celebration of National Women’s Month, I would like to share my life, my mistakes, and my triumphs to help other young girls like me to stand up, to be brave enough to speak up and say, we are girls, we are important, and we have rights.
I was in school when the news about my pregnancy first broke out. Of all people, my teachers were the ones who spread the news about me in class. I was really embarrassed! I did not share with them my situation for fear that I would be ostracized. But it happened anyway… I have hunches for a while that I might be pregnant because I have been missing my period for several months already. It was not my choice to be pregnant. I was at a point in my life that I was seeking love and care from my mother and stepfather.
I was not the brightest in our little Muslim family in Cotabato. People would always compare me to my older brother who excelled in class. At home, I had to do all the household chores as the only girl among the siblings. This left me little time to study. Whenever I needed something like a mobile phone or a laptop to help me with projects or research required in class, my needs came second only to my older brother.
I was also accused of many things that I did not do. It came to a point that I rebelled because my school uniform and school stuff were burned for not “telling the truth.” I sought refuge elsewhere. I made the mistake of getting into a relationship that I am not ready for. I was young and needed guidance, love and protection.
Three years have passed, I am now a young mother to a baby girl. I was married right away before an Ustad because it is in the Islamic law that I can be married to the man who got me pregnant. My relatives wasted no time to have the ceremony. While I do not regret having married my boyfriend because he is a good provider and a loving husband, there are experiences of teenagers my age that I missed a lot. At nineteen, I have to be a responsible mother, wife and a provider to our child.
Along with the responsibility is the realization that I had to grow up faster than I ought to. My involvement in Save the Children Philippines’ training on gender-based rights opened my eyes to what it means to be heard of. I have learned that my voice counts and my views matter.
“As a girl, I have the right to be heard. It is my right to be cared for and be treated equally inside and outside of home and of community. I realized that I have the right to express my thoughts and feelings even if I am young.”
I am now in a university taking BS in Education because I wanted to be a teacher. This open letter is to tell you, young girls, that the mistakes we made do not define us. Learn to love yourself, respect yourself, and know that you have rights as a girl and as a woman to be valued. It is never too late to speak up and stand up.
I am Simbiat* from Mindanao, enjoining all Filipino girls to celebrate the National Women’s Month because girls’ rights are human rights!
*not her real name
NOTES TO THE EDITOR:
A study conducted by Save the Children in 2015 showed that a child’s first 1000 days, from conception until the second birthday, is the most important time in a child’s growth and development. The care and nutrition provided to the mother during pregnancy affect the chances of a child for survival and of leading a productive life. Teenage pregnancy increases school drop-out rates thereby affecting the education of the teenage mother. Poor education limits their employment opportunities and can further perpetuate the inter-generational cycle of poverty and inequality. All these will consequently affect the health, nutrition, development and well-being of their babies.
Save the Children Philippines believes every child deserves a future. We are actively advocating for legislative measures that will address the prevalence of adolescent pregnancy in the country and support the pending bills, more particularly on the development of a national policy on the prevention of adolescent pregnancy through a multisectoral approach and with the participation of adolescents and young people, and providing appropriation for its implementation, as well as the possibility for a multi-year funding to ensure sustainability of program implementation.