Adolescent mothers and their children can breathe a sigh of relief now that the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) and the Commission on Population and Development (POPCOM) have joined hands in pursuing a program that particularly addresses the multidimensional consequences of poverty among this vulnerable group. In a simple virtual signing ceremony, Secretary Rolando Bautista of DWSD and USec Juan Antonio A Perez III of POPCOM have sealed an agreement dubbed “Social Protection Program for Teenaged Mothers and their Children (SPPTMC)” on Thursday, 10 June 2021. Both agency heads agreed to share data, exchange information as well as provide beneficiaries better access to health, nutrition and mental health support and services.
In a pre-recorded message, Sec. Bautista stressed the need to facilitate the access of adolescent mothers who are minors to government programs in order to safeguard their well-being and ensure their productive participation in nation building. On the other hand, USec Perez underscored the provision of safety nets and equal opportunities for adolescent mothers to finish their education until they are able to sustainably participate in economic activities and find gainful employment. The duo has also committed to converge their expertise and financial resources to curb the negative effects of unplanned and repeat pregnancies among teenagers who are already mothers.
The national government provided the impetus for DSWD and POPCOM to mutually implement a social protection scheme in an effort to alleviate the hardships experienced by teen mothers 10 to 18 years old, their children and their immediate families. The Senate had tasked these agencies to craft a social protection mechanism for teenaged mothers and their children as provided in the General Appropriations Act of 2021. POPCOM and DSWD believe that the burdens associated with mistimed pregnancies expose young mothers to a host of risks that place them at greater disadvantage in terms of economic participation and gains compared with their counterparts who were able to finish at least secondary education and have not yet begun early childbearing.
Experts from Plan International (PI), an independent organization working globally in about 75 countries admit that adolescent mothers usually hail from impoverished and marginalized communities. They added that the extent of a young female’s education determines whether or not she will slide into early motherhood. PI added that with minimal education, young girls are at risk of dropping out from school and the likelihood of them becoming a mother at a young age is five times higher than their fully educated peers. Other negative effects of early motherhood include maternal and child mortality, unsafe abortions, complications relating to pregnancy and childbirth, stigma or rejection by parents and peers and sexual violence.
The SPPTMC is set to be pilot tested in six (6) regions in the country from July to September to determine the best practices of implementing the scheme with the end in view of instituting policies and activities geared towards poverty reduction, addressing inequality and vulnerability to risks and social status enhancement among teenaged mothers.