Birthing babies and a nation
Today is not just Mothers Day, it is also the day before we troop to the polls. So in 24 hours, we will all become mothers, “birthing” a new set of public officials, from the highest official of the land to the humblest councilor.
At this point, it’s not clear what “sort” of baby will be born tomorrow—whether it’ll be a child savior who’ll deliver on the promise for the future, a demon child who will plunge the country into six years of doom, or a Frankenstein monster cobbled together from sundry parts which will blunder through the difficult future.
Whatever choices we make tomorrow, though, the greatest impact will be felt not by us oldies but by our children and even grandchildren. As Klaus Beck, country representative of the UN Population Fund here told a recent youth gathering, “national policies that pay attention to youth issues now will define the quality of life that young people of today will have as they enter adulthood and the working age phase of their lives.”
Beck pointed out that “a 10-year-old girl or boy of today will be 16 by the time the next administration ends, or 25 years old by the end of the SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals) in 2030. What would the life be of that young girl or boy by then? The answer lies with your next elected leaders.”
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Despite what doomsayers declare, the Philippines, said Beck, is “well-placed to benefit from its large population of 30 million young people aged 10-24 years old.” But, the number of young people is not enough guarantee that the country will benefit from what’s been called the “demographic dividend.”
Policies and programs must be put in place targeted to meet the needs of young people—education, employment, good health. “A large number of young people who have no access to quality education, who are besieged by high teen pregnancies and HIV, and who are unemployed or underemployed only perpetuate poverty,” said Beck.
And that’s why it’s crucial that as we fill in those empty ovals in our ballots tomorrow, we take care to do so with an eye to the future, to choosing those who will not only have the best programs or make the most ravishing promises, but who also have the capability, the experience and the integrity to forge that brighter future for our children. We will be voting not just for ourselves but for the children of today, and deciding what their lives will be like beyond even the next six years.
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“When a child is born, a mother is born,” goes a saying. Although I must say that for some women, every time a child is born, a mother is born anew, a mother who, depending on the circumstances, will be not just older but also frailer, wearier, less healthy.
And many times, when a child is born to a mother who is too young or too old, too sick, or who has too many previous children born too close together, that child will lose a mother. And chances are, the child’s life and health will also be compromised.
Some facts according to the World Health Organization, as cited by the Population Reference Bureau:
Each year, an estimated 303,000 women die in pregnancy and childbirth; that’s about 830 each day.
Most of these deaths could be prevented with skilled care before, during and after childbirth.
Fully 99 percent of these deaths occur in developing countries; more than half of the deaths occur in sub-Saharan Africa and nearly one-third occur in South Asia. (The Philippines has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in Southeast Asia.)
Young adolescents are most at risk of complications and death from pregnancy and childbirth. Pregnancy and childbirth-related complications are a leading cause of death for girls aged 15-19.
If 90 percent of the women who wanted to avoid pregnancy were using modern contraceptives, 28 million births could have been prevented in 2015. This would have prevented 67,000 maternal deaths.
So the call on this occasion is not just to celebrate the gift and blessings of motherhood. It is also to make motherhood safe for mothers, which means making sure that every mother is healthy and free, free to choose the timing and frequency of her pregnancy, and free to access the full range of services before, during and after childbirth.
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And since we started considering the future of young people which we voters will be determining tomorrow, let’s also consider the future of young women, too many of whom are becoming mothers before they’re even ready for its responsibilities, or even before their bodies are ready for pregnancy. Let’s think, too, of the future of young men, who’ll be facing the adult responsibility of fatherhood years before they’re ready to be raising a child.
In this country, before a young person can receive counseling or services from a public health center or clinic, he or she must present written consent from his or her parents. But think of it: If teens are already able to talk about sex with their parents and trust that the information given is full, accurate and not designed to scare them off sex, would they still see the need to consult strangers in a public setting? Can you imagine the dialogue between parent and a teen asking for permission to talk about sex and receive information from another adult?
And then, hearing about the rising numbers of teen pregnancies, we throw up our hands and decry how irresponsible these teens are!
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