Underage pregnancies require community support, says Thai academic

Focusing on the issue of underage pregnancies, Sumate Noklang, a PhD Development Education Programme lecturer at the Graduate School of Srinakharinwirot University, insists that the government must prioritise the quality of life for children yet to be born. This comes as part of national initiatives aimed at tackling the country’s decreasing fertility rates.

During 2021-2022, Sumate led a comprehensive research study involving 400 individuals hailing from a rural community in a Central Plains province. This community recorded the highest rate of underage teenage mothers in the nation.

The objective of the study was to establish a mechanism and community empowerment model dedicated to supporting vulnerable groups, thereby ensuring a good quality of life for the future population.

The research revealed that the issue of underage pregnancies can be effectively addressed by fostering self-esteem, awareness, and community support. The community plays a significant role in empowering the teen girls’ self-esteem, stated Sumate, who collaborated with Peeradet Prakongpan, another lecturer at the Graduate School of Srinakharinwirot University, for this study.

To bring about change, guidebooks outlining how community members should appropriately interact with young mothers were distributed. These included families, relatives, and teachers. The guidebooks were provided with support from local health volunteers.

Sumate expressed hope that these guidelines would help to alleviate societal stigma. He further pointed out that with proper community care, these young mothers could cultivate a sense of self-compassion, which would inspire them to take good care of their babies. This would prevent them from succumbing to negative influences that could ultimately lead to societal issues.

Although the legal age of maturity is deemed to be 20, Sumate argued that not all women of this age are necessarily prepared to have a baby. The critical aspect, he claimed, is creating an appropriate environment that supports these young mothers in raising their children.

Central role

He further recommended that the government play a central role in supporting the community, ensuring that pregnant teenagers are not neglected or subjected to inhospitable conditions.

According to the Department of Health, underage adolescent pregnancy cases have decreased significantly, from 120,000 cases in 2012 to 47,000 cases in 2023. This success is attributed to the concerted efforts of several agencies in raising awareness about birth control, incorporating sex education into the national curriculum, and ensuring that pregnant girls are allowed to continue their education. This facilitates their access to further education and career opportunities.

Sumate’s study on underage mothers provides crucial insights into addressing this issue effectively, reported Bangkok Post.

Thailand News

Mitch Connor

Mitch is a Bangkok resident, having relocated from Southern California, via Florida in 2022. He studied journalism before dropping out of college to teach English in South America. After returning to the US, he spent 4 years working for various online publishers before moving to Thailand.

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