Question: What is the best way to keep girls in school?
Answer: Make sure she doesn’t get pregnant!
Cutting through the pouring rain was a roar of teens' giggling to several drawings of a male and female reproductive organ in front of them. Mixed expression of curiosity and shame was in the air when it comes to the topic of S-E-X.
Sex Talk Taboo
"We had a mother pulling her kid out of our workshop once" Kevin shared with us one of the most uncomfortable incidents in his sex education workshops.
"Sex Education should be primarily a matter for the parents to impart privately in the home, not something to be purveyed and discussed in mixed classrooms of boys and girls at impressionable ages", according to the Vatican's Guidelines on Sex Education, therefore, some senior bishops in the Philippines believe the task of telling children about sex and relationships should be up to parents, not teachers.
"We don't talk about STI (sexually transmitted disease), HIV/AIDS, teenage pregnancy, or anything about sex with our parents because it offends them. It is considered inappropriate to discuss this in most households." A teenager at the workshop told us.
Numbers don’t lie
Teen pregnancy in the Philippines has continued to rise at an alarming rate. The Commission on Population and Development (PopCom) called on President Rodrigo Duterte at the launch of adolescent pregnancy prevention campaign on 23 October 2019, to issue an executive order declaring teenage pregnancy a national emergency.
One in ten young Filipino women age between 15 to 19 is already a mother or pregnant with her first child. In other words, 24 babies are born to Filipino teenage mothers every hour. A survey from the Philippines Statistics Authority showed that around 61.9% of 2.97 million dropouts in 2019 were girls aged 16-24 who were forced into “marriage or family matter” because they were about to be a MOM!
“There are two options for girls with unintended pregnancy; first is to drop out of school to care for her child, second is to seek an illegal abortion,” said Kevin
Currently, Manila’s abortion ban is killing roughly around 1,000 Filipino women each year due to the lack of medical standard and safety. While those who were lucky enough to survive the recovery may face trial and go to jail.
Is it explicit enough to work?
"There is no running around the bush when it comes to sex education. So we've decided the workshop to be very graphic. Students would get to draw reproductive organs, see or try to put a condom on a dildo, know about contraception, and learn about the risk of HIV/AIDs infection. All of those activities make many participants feel uncomfortable, but that is why there are here for" Kevin explained.
A day of sex education on Saturday morning at the city of the endless arrays of sugarcane started with icebreaking, then two-page of pre-test on Reproductive System, HIV and other Sexually Transmitted Infections, and Sexual Rights. We, C asean, took a quick look at the questions and we were glad that we didn’t have to take them because we might not even finish further than question no. 5. Those were really hardcore.
Right after the test, the team switched on the projector to reveal an image of a 19-year-old girl on the canvas screen. The girl was hysterically crying while she was telling what happened to her when she found out she was pregnant. Cutting through her sobbing sound, she managed to scream out one sentence “Everybody said I could no longer go to school, and this is the end of the road for me”. The disturbed look on boys was not in a million years as troublesome as the silence among girls. No one looked down at their phone, the giggling stopped, as this was no longer a joke.
“The revision of the Philippines Youth Development Plan 2017-2022 has made a huge positive impact on our operation. The collaboration with the local youth council, such as Negrosanon Young Leaders Institute Inc (NYLI), has helped us fill the house and expand our reach to many far-flung communities such as this one.” Kevin has shared.
“It wasn’t difficult to recruit these students. Teenagers are already interested to know more about SEX.” Said Melvin D. Er-er, one of the Chairmans of the youth council in Cardiz City