Teenage pregnancies are hindering Cambodia’s development as young mothers are unlikely to finish school and therefore lack job opportunities, government and U.N. officials said at the launch of a global report on adolescent pregnancies on Wednesday.
“The Ministry of Women’s Affairs acknowledges that adolescent pregnancies have a serious impact on health, education and employment opportunities,” Minister of Women’s Affairs Ing Kantha Phavi said at the launch of the global report Motherhood in childhood: Facing the challenge of adolescent pregnancy by the U.N.’s Population Fund (UNFPA).
“Approximately 60 percent of our population is under the age of 30, so we have a lot of young men and women who have the need for reproductive and sexual knowledge,” Ms. Kantha Phavi said.
Although progress had been made over the past decade to improve job opportunities for women as well as their access to health services, the number of teenage pregnancies has remained constant at 48 out of 1,000 women aged 15 to 19 years, UNFPA country representative Dr. Marc Derveeuw said.
The key to decreasing adolescent pregnancies is providing access to family planning for women and increasing knowledge about sex, he said.
“There is a very strong relationship between education and teenage pregnancies…. Investment in young girls’ education is very important,” Dr. Derveeuw said.
The number of teenage pregnancies was expected to decrease within the next decade as sex education has been included in some school curriculums since 2011, Dr. Yung Kunthearith, deputy director of the Ministry of Education’s school health department, said.
“We developed four curriculums for different school levels. In each curriculum, we [teach about] body development, relationships and decision making, and other issues like sexual violence and birth spacing and drug education,” Dr. Kunthearith said, adding that so far, the curriculums were being implemented in Battambang, Koh Kong, Pursat, Kompong Chhnang and Preah Sihanoukville provinces.
“The budget for this is not so big yet, but next year, we will try to expand it to other provinces,” he said.