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City’s grit to decimate teen births

By Jason B. Neola

DESPITE faith-based approaches that aim to stop teenage pregnancies, the city government of Naga continues to initiate measures to zero in on factors that cause children to engage in early initiation of sexual activity.

The latest of such initiatives is the city’s enactment of the ordinance that seeks to institutionalize and harmonize all its programs and services on adolescent and youth sexual and reproductive health (AYSRH).

The AYSRH Ordinance, according to Mayor Nelson Legacion, arms the LGU to intensify the city government’s campaign against adolescent pregnancy and birth and help spare adolescent girls from getting pregnant to better prepare themselves for the years ahead.

The City Population and Nutrition Office (CPNO) said that the city mayor is advocating for zero teenage pregnancy in three years under the guidance of The Challenge Initiative (TCI), a program that aims to accelerate the reduction of teenage pregnancies.

Church-based, FP approaches

The LGU’s campaign is getting a strong backing from its volunteer-partner, the National Auxiliary Chaplaincy Philippines (NACPHIL) here by way of conducting in the communities values-formation seminars to the young ones and their parents.

“There’s really a need to constantly remind every family about the value of being God-fearing and God-loving, and inculcate in them the good values in life like self-respect, trustworthiness, integrity, perseverance and self-care, ” said Steven Gianan, pastor at the Metro Naga Bible Community Church and the regional director of the NACPHIL.

TCI aims to stop teenage pregnancies in the country by establishing adolescent-friendly health facilities that promote positive health-seeking behavior and improve access to family planning programs.

A CPNO data said that the city’s adolescent birth rate has continuously dropped for the last 4 years from 30.21 in 2019 to 20.10 in 2022. An upward trend, however, in repeat pregnancies was noticed among the teenage moms that went from 39 cases in 2020 to 56 in 2021, and 62 in 2022.

Former president Rodrigo Duterte declared in August 2019 that teenage pregnancy is a national social emergency. According to the 2017 report of the Philippine Statistics Authority, an average of 538 babies are born to Filipino teenage mothers daily. At 5.99 percent, the Philippines has the second highest teen pregnancy in Southeast Asia based on Save the Children’s Global Childhood Report in 2019.

Among the mandate of the ordinance is the creation of AYSRH Council that will function as the advisory, planning, and policy-making body of the LGU to ensure the full implementation of the ordinance, and the delivery of a comprehensive culture-sensitive, appropriate, and age-and-development sex education in school and communities.

The ordinance also guarantees the provision of adequate funding to all AYSRH programs and services and mandates to strengthen the capability of the barangay health workers, nutrition scholars, and other frontline health and social workers in extending care and education that will suit to the needs of their adolescent/youth clients.

In pursuing its AYSRH services, the city government has increased its budget from P728,000 in 2020 to over a million pesos in 2022 when it joined the TCI. The budget expanded to P4.1-M in 2023.

Adolescent-friendly nooks

The ordinance also required the establishment of teen hubs in all public schools and teen centers in the city’s 27 barangays so that out-of-school youths and school-based adolescents will be provided with exclusive schedule in availing reproductive health services with ease and privacy.

The CPNO said that there are teen centers or adolescent-friendly facilities already established in the barangays of Concepcion Pequeña, Balatas, and Calauag.

City Councilor Gayle Abonal-Gomez, the author of the ordinance, said that teen centers and teen hubs will be capacitated that it can be able to help address the fear of stigmatization among the youth clients.

Stigmatization is the action of describing or regarding someone or something as worthy of disgrace or great disapproval. It may also refer to the action or process of marking someone with stigmata. Stigmatization may lead to ostracism, marginalization, discrimination, and abuse.

The councilor expressed hopes that privately-owned schools will also have their own teen hubs sooner and will be able to strengthen their research on AYSRH to help further improve the LGU’s programs.

Aside from encouraging the participation of the young ones, the ordinance underscores the role of parents in teenage pregnancy prevention as it also pushes for the institutionalization of a program that will educate the parents about the matter and encourage their active involvement.

She said that they are closely monitoring the rise in repeat pregnancies among teenage mothers from which they see the big role that other members of the family, especially the parents, should perform.

Expanding the network

The CPNO said that another major component of the ordinance is the establishment of the information service delivery network that will harmonize all existing services and program interventions on AYSRH.

Under the ordinance, the CPNO will occupy the frontline in the gathering and linking up of various stakeholders involved in extending AYSRH services to organize a referral system and provide health services based of the specific needs of the adolescent-clients.

“Before, when this ordinance has not yet been enacted, we were already providing AYSRH services thru several linkages along with a number of partners from public and private sectors. We only lack one thing at that time, we have to harmonize and institutionalized our efforts,” she said.

The councilor expressed optimism that by way of the ordinance, the city government along with other stakeholders, will be able to unify all its actions and be able to grow its networks and effectively implement its programs, she said.


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