I met Jasmine and her son, Kent John, 7-months-old, on a sunny day at a free health clinic in Ormoc, a busy port city on Leyte island in the Philippines. At just 21-year-old Jasmine came to the clinic because Kent John had been experiencing a cough and fever for two weeks.
Luckily located very close to the clinic, Jasmine takes her son to the clinic for his regular immunizations and goes anytime Kent John is ill. Sometimes she has to wait for two hours before being seen by Glenda B. Serato, the health clinic’s nurse.
“I am confident with my baby’s health because I can access free immunizations and medicine,” Jasmine says through translation.
The mothers I spoke to including Jasmine mention always coming to the clinic for their children’s immunizations even though many live deep in the rural areas where rice and sugar fields are abundant and access to health services are not.
“The mothers are educated now,” Serato confirms. “It is very rare that mothers don’t get their children vaccinated.”
During Typhoon Haiyan that devastated much of Leyte island, Jasmine was five months pregnant, but was able to deliver her first child, Kent John, via C-section at a public hospital. Now, she is taking oral contraceptives to space her children with her husband, who drives a motorcycle for a living.
“I want to space my children 10 years apart,” Jasmine says laughing. “It is hard to make a living to raise children.”
A stay-at-home mother, Jasmine has little chance of contributing to the family’s income because she dropped out of school in elementary school.
“During school I was bullied by my classmates,” Jasmine remembers. “My teacher encouraged me, but I didn’t go back and my family could not afford to send me to school. I have seven siblings.”
Studies show definitively that when girls are able to access and finish secondary school their chances for living in poverty are reduced and they are able to make better decisions about delaying marriage, having children, and spacing their births. In fact, 59 percent of all girls worldwide would have fewer early births if they receive secondary education. And women’s fertility rate, specifically in sub-Saharan Africa, drops to 3.9 percent from 6.7 percent when girls receive no education at all.
Even though she would like to go back to school she doesn’t sound optimistic about her prospects of continuing her education, but sounds more hopeful for Kent John.
“I want my baby to finish college because it’s for his own good,” Jasmine smiles while holding him up. “I want him to be able to support his family.”
Reporting was made possible through a trip to the Philippines with World Vision USA.