The future of our country lies on the success of our 10-year-old daughters.
This was the highlight of the State of the World Population 2016report by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) released today. It shows how crucial we, as parents and as a community, work together to ensure that our young girls are provided with the opportunities they need to reach their full potential.
“By ensuring the over 1 million 10-year-old girls in the Philippines get the tools, know-how and opportunities they need to meet their potential, they could each earn over 45 percent more over the next 15 years -- that’s an extra 12.8 percent of today’s GDP,” says Klaus Beck, UNFPA representative in the Philippines.
Current statistics, however, that lack of education, teenage pregnancy and child labour are undermining girls' health, rights and opportunities.
Worldwide, 16 million girls between 6 and 11 years old will never start school -- that’s twice the number compared to boys. Seventy five percent of girl laborers are unpaid and work for family business, according to estimates from the International Labor Organization.
In the Philippines, four in 10 girls are -- or will soon be -- mothers by 19 years old. “Teenage pregnancy limits far too many girls’ hopes, dreams and aspirations,” says UNFPA’s Beck.
“By ensuring girls right to education, including age appropriate comprehensive sexuality education and access to youth friendly sexual and reproductive health services and advice, we could improve the lives of hundreds of thousands, reap long-term benefits, and help ensure the success of 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development,” he adds.
The agenda is a global blueprint for peace, prosperity and a sustainable future to 2030. It was adopted by 193 countries, including the Philippines, at the United Nations in 2015.
The report focuses on the age of 10 because it is a pivotal age for girls around the world. “At 10, a girl is approaching puberty, when many people start to think of her as an asset -- for work, childbearing or sex,” says the report. “If her rights are not well protected, through appropriate laws, services and investments, the chance to bloom in adolescence and become a fully fledged adult forever slips away.
So, as parents how can we ensure a bright future for our 10-year-old daughters? National Youth Commission (NYC) chairperson Aiza Seguerra, who was a speaker at the event, suggests starting with an open communication between parent and child, especially when it comes to relationships and sex.
Chairperson Seguerra also mentions the NYC’s intention to lobby against the Reproductive Health Law provision that denies minors access to modern methods of family planning (birth control pills, condoms, etc.) without written consent from a parent or guardian. She reasons that discussions on sex can already be difficult for a child to have with a parent, let alone asking a parent to come to a health center to gain access to family planning services.
A 2015 report also from UNFPA shows that 15 percent of adolescent girls have had sex before the age of 15 -- and many are forced to engage in a sexual activity. It also found that the Philippines is the only one out of 32 Asian countries that saw a rise in teen pregnancy in the last two decades.
Also present at the launch was Dr. Lisa Grace Bersales, national statistician from the Philippine Statistics Authority; Carlos Bernardo O. Abad Santos, assistant director-general of the National Economic and Developmental Authority; and Lolito Tacardon, deputy executive director of the Commission on Population.