“I am 34 years old, I have a 14-year-old daughter and a 2-month-old grandchild.”
Something’s not quite right with this statement, but it’s a situation many Filipino parents find themselves in.
“When I first found out, I was dazed,” Aleng said in Filipino. “I was informed by the aunt of my daughter’s boyfriend.”
“I was told that my teenage daughter is pregnant,” she continued. “I was shown my daughter’s pregnancy test, it was positive.”
Aleng herself first got pregnant at 17, then again at 19.
She said she didn’t want her daughters and granddaughter to experience the same hardships.
Not in school
In the Philippines, 1 in 10 girls ages 15-19 is already a mother or is pregnant with her first child, the 2013 National Demographic and Health Survey found.
Many of them are forced to quit school. Some return to class later on, however, others never get to go back. (WATCH: This young man is trying to prevent teenage pregnancies)
Among them is Aleng’s daughter.
“My daughter can’t return to school for now because of what happened," said Aleng.
As a single mom, Aleng supports her two daughters and one grandchild. She works in a neighborhood cafeteria owned by her parents.
“My daughter’s boyfriend isn’t in school either, he works instead,” Aleng shared. “He earns 300 pesos a day.”
When it comes to childcare and finances, many teen parents rely on their parents or grandparents. But what will happen once their adult relatives are no longer there to support them and their children?
Hence the need for these adolescents to continue their education.
Pregnancy at a very young age also poses health risks for both mother and baby – especially if they are unaware of health services available to them, such as prenatal care.
Risks include the baby’s premature birth or low birth weight. Meanwhile, pregnant teens are vulnerable to having high blood pressure.
Teenage parents would also need support in relation to their mental and emotional well-being. (WATCH: Scared of adolescence?)
According to the same survey, 1 in 5 Filipino women ages 18-24 had already experienced sexual activity before turning 18.
Many young Filipino girls and boys remain unaware of the consequences of unprotected sex.
“I told my daughter that I hope she won’t have another baby so soon. Study first,” shared Aleng.
To achieve this, Aleng now teaches her adolescent children about reproductive health. She openly discusses the prevention of unintended pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases.
"We encourage parents to be accepting, respectful, and honest in communicating with their adolescent children," said Dr. Miel Nora, Save the Children Philippines' Adolescent Sexual and Reproductive Health Advisor.
"Be available when your children ask about sex and sexuality," Nora explained. "Be honest if you don’t know the answer, but be sure to get back to them once you have the proper reply."
Both girls and boys should be equally educated on this matter – and the latter should be taught how to respect women and girls starting at an early age. (WATCH: Can boys support girls' rights?)
Parents, of course, are expected to set a good example.
"We remind parents that they have a responsibility to protect and help children in areas where they may be at risk," Nora said. "Providing parents with right information is one way of protecting children."
Aleng is among the parents and teenagers Save the Children trains on Adolescent Health.
She advises parents to read up so they may properly answer their children's questions such as those about safe sex, menstrual health, puberty, among many others.
"Parents should be comfortable to talk about sex with their adolescents," Nora stressed. "They play a big role in shaping their children's view and values on sex."
"Most parents think it’s inappropriate to talk to their child about sex, however, there's plenty of research showing that adolescents choose to have sex much later and are more like to stay safe it their parents built an open and honest relationship with them, and provided them with accurate and age-appropriate information."
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