"These are girls without opportunities, who can hardly contribute to meeting their family’s needs, and who will be dependent on the meager social services made available by the state."
Let me tell you about Kristine.
Her father was very strict. “We were eight children, four boys, and four girls. I was in the middle. Our father was very cruel and violent toward us. Even when we were already in our teens he never stopped hitting and shaming us, even in public. He would hit us with anything he could grab. If he can’t find something, he slapped, punched, and kicked us for the slightest infraction.”
Tin recounts an incident when her father kicked her when he saw her in public. She had stowed away from home and living with a friend for already two months to escape his violence. She had left their house three more times for the same reason. She tried to apply for a job to be able to afford even a bed space but nobody wanted to hire a minor.
She first got pregnant when she was 16 and in second-year high school. When she told her then-boyfriend, he denied it was his baby and refused to take responsibility. “You’ve had at least three boyfriends before we got together. How do I know that I’m the only one you’ve been having sex with?” he snapped. Tin went ballistic when she heard him say these. She went on nightly drinking sprees.
She dropped out of school and did not go for pre-natal check-ups. When it was time to give birth, her blood pressure shot up and they discovered that she had a pre-existing heart condition. Tin experienced eclampsia and had to undergo an emergency Caesarean procedure. Fortunately, her baby girl was delivered safely with no further complications.
Before she turned 18, a friend introduced Chester, a construction worker to her. He courted her, even after she told him that she already had a daughter. “He didn’t mind, but his parents did because his mother was very cold to me when he brought me to live in their house. They looked very strict so I escaped and took refuge with a friend.”
Chester found her and asked her to return. Tin refused and explained. He couldn’t say anything because he was a mama’s boy. His mother had high expectations of him being the eldest of four children and the breadwinner of the family. His father still worked as a fisherman, but his earnings have been erratic.
Tin eventually went back to Chester’s home. She was on pills because she did not want to get pregnant again. But she thought the pills gave her headaches, so she stopped. Soon after, she was pregnant for the second time.
“People say things, but Chester is only the second man I have had sex with,” shares Tin. “The second pregnancy is risky but I was willing to see it through. He said he wasn’t like the father of my first born.” Tin had a normal delivery for her second pregnancy but still experienced elevated blood pressure and had to have her heart condition monitored.
“What I dreamt of becoming when I was a child, was to be a stewardess to see new places and have new experiences. Now I am just relegated to the house, minding it, Chester, and the children. It is very difficult because it’s very tiring. I cannot go out and no longer have time for myself. I also miss my friends. I don’t want to study anymore but I wish my children would be able to go to school and finish the courses of their choice. That is now my dream,” Tin said with a sigh.
This is a true story of one of the sixty (60) young women who experienced teen pregnancy interviewed by my NGO, the Democratic Socialist Women of the Philippines (DSWP). Their stories have been written and now being finalized. To respect the girl’s rights to privacy, her identity has been changed. An analytical paper is also being prepared about these experiences and will be made public soon. This undertaking is part of a project on the twin issues of teen pregnancy and women and HIV in partnership with the AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF).
According to the Commission on Population (POPCOM), in 2019, births among girls fifteen years old and below increased by 7 percent compared with the figures in 2018. This means that 2,411 girls aged between ten and 14 gave birth in 2019.
Moreover, POPCOM said that 10 percent of all pregnancies in the country are teen pregnancies. While some may think that this is small, this translates to 62,510 minors getting pregnant in 2019.
The experiences gathered by the DSWP made these data real. These are not just numbers but represent the lives of girls and their families, lives that have been made much worse because of teen pregnancy. It was difficult to listen to the interviews and write the stories because most were very sad, bordering on the tragic. One could not help but feel affected by these heartbreaking stories.
This problem is not simple. Teen pregnancy has to do with our culture that gives little value to women’s and girls’ human rights, and our politics that marginalizes women’s and girl’s needs. If teen pregnancy is not effectively addressed, we may create a lost generation. A generation of girls without opportunities, who can hardly contribute to meeting their family’s needs, and who will be dependent on the meager social services made available by the state. These girls may have very well lost their future.
Kristine’s experience provides a glimpse of the kind of life faced by young mothers and their families.
More next week.
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