At 18, Leah is about to be a mom.
She is quite nervous, she admits. “My wish is for me to be able to properly care for my baby,” Leah said in Filipino.
Just a few years back, Leah was only learning how to use sanitary napkins for the first time. Now, she has to learn how to raise a baby.
Leah dropped out of school after sixth grade due to financial reasons.
With a baby on the way, it becomes even more unclear when exactly can she go back to school.
Leah is not alone.
Unintended pregnancies have forced many young Filipino women to leave school either temporarily or for good.
In the Philippines, 1 in 10 Filipino women ages 15-19 is already a mother or is pregnant with her first child, the 2013 National Demographic and Health Survey showed.
Nearly 3 in 10 births in the Philippines are either unwanted or mistimed, the survey found.
The Philippines, in fact, is the only country in the Asia-Pacific region that has not decreased its rates of teenage pregnancy in the past 20 years, the UNFPA reported.
Growing up, Leah lacked access to information about her own body.
She had questions about adolescence, sex, and reproductive health that were left unanswered.
At 11, her mother passed away. With no mother to ask about the joys, pains, and mysteries surrounding her puberty, Leah turned to their next-door neighbor for advice.
“I called her Mama Ludy and she taught me about menstruation,” Leah fondly recalled. “However, she also left.”
Today, Leah is among the parents and soon-to-be parents trained by Save the Children on Maternal, Newborn, Child Health & Nutrition.
Save the Children believes that both men and women should be educated on these topics.
Fathers also play a crucial role in bringing up their children.
We also strongly encourage parents to educate their sons on how to respect women and girls. They, too, should be well-informed about adolescent health.
Leah is determined to learn everything on how she can care for and protect not only her baby, but also herself as a young woman.
“After learning about family planning and contraception, I plan to not have another baby so soon,” said Leah. “I’ll also pass on what I learned about adolescent health with my younger siblings."
Empower through education. The first step in solving anything is to talk about it.