The Philippines has the highest number of teenage mothers in South East Asia. The country's population continues to grow by two million people every year, with teenage mothers accounting for 10 percent of its annual pregnancies. Over the past decade, there has been a 70 percent increase in the number of teenage pregnancies.
Sex education is controversial in the mostly Roman Catholic country. The distribution of any means of artificial birth control is still being debated in the Senate as part of a reproductive health bill. A bill addressing these issues was introduced 17 years ago and nothing has come of it. Sex education and access to birth control, advocates say, is about development and transcending poverty.
Joann Cubillas was only 13 years old when she had her first child. "I didn't know anything. I was very young. That's why I didn't know any better," she told Al Jazeera. She had to put her dreams for herself aside in order to take care of the baby. She is now 19. Her husband is in jail. She and her children share a small room with her mother and works part time as a waitress in order to feed her family.
Government studies in the Philippines show that the less educated, poorer women give birth earlier and have more children, which comports with findings from a Save the Children study published earlier this year. The Save the Children statistics revealed that mothers were healthier and better off in secular countries where education, birth control and abortion are accessible.