Leadership for Adolescents and Youth-Friendly Cities Training Empowers Dipolog City Youth Leaders

Nov 22, 2021

Contributor: Maria Teresa P. Ferrolino

Teonith speaking to children ages three to 10 years old during the ministry outreach of the diocese of Dipolog Youth Ministry.

Teonith Biolango is a young teacher at St. Vincent’s College in Dipolog City in The Philippines. She also works at the Center for Community Extension and Linkages where she is involved in teaching moral values, educating youth on the ill effects of drug addiction and advocating for nature conservation. Given her work in the education sector working with youth and on behalf of youth-related issues, she was invited by the Sanggunian Kabataan Federation President, Mandel Zoe B. Lugasan, to be one of the youth leaders in the city to take part in the Leadership for Adolescent and Youth Friendly Cities (LAYFC) training this summer.

LAYFC is a promising approach adopted by cities to address high rates of teenage pregnancy in cities supported by The Challenge Initiative (TCI), such as Dipolog City. The goal of the LAYFC training approach is to address the limited leadership and governance capacity among the city leadership team, barangay or community officials and youth leaders related to their adolescent and youth sexual and reproductive health (AYSRH) program.

Before the LAYFC training, Teonith had very limited AYSRH knowledge. However, during the training, she quickly learned about the extent of the teenage pregnancy problem in Dipolog City from data that Mandel presented. Teonith reflects on the experience:

Although I have seen teen moms in my community, I didn’t know that it was high. My heart was gripped when we listened to the video testimony of Valerie. I started asking myself how I can help the teen moms and how we, as youth leaders, could help address teen pregnancy in our city. I do not know how to help them. I do not know how I could help prevent teenage pregnancy from increasing. But LAYFC changed all that.”

A group zoom showing who attended the Youth Leaders training on Leadership for Adolescents and Youth-Friendly Cities, a TCI proven approach for reducing teenage pregnancy and adolescent and youth sexual reproductive health. (Teonith is second from left in the top row.)

At the LAYFC training, youth leaders were taught the importance of systems thinking. Teonith and 15 other youth leaders from Dipolog City analyzed the factors affecting teenage pregnancy rates. These factors include the lack of sex education, not openly discussing AYSRH, lack of parental guidance, among others. Teonith share how the training empowered her:

TCI provided the pathway on how we could reduce teenage pregnancy in the city. It is not a program where politicians display on a tarpaulin for everyone to see. It invites the community to participate in the reduction of teen pregnancy. Through TCI, as a representative of the education sector, I have been invited to be part of the solution. My knowledge on AYSRH increased and I am glad that there is a program in the city that is specific for AYSRH.”

Teonith (in a black mask on left) with SK Mark Dwaine Narciso of Barangay Sta. Filomena and SK Kate Cuenca of Barangay Galas and other youth leaders from different organizations in Dipolog City during the Sanggunian Kabataan and Local Development Youth Council planning.

On the last day of the LAYFC training, youth leaders were asked to give their action plans. Teonith recommended the profiling of adolescents and youth in the barangays. Together with other youth leaders of Dipolog, they plan to conduct small group discussions in priority barangays to assess needs and to address them appropriately to help reduce the factors affecting teenage pregnancy. Teonith is also advocating in her personality development class for her students to delay sexual debut until marriage, but if they are already sexually active to practice safe sex.

Given this experience, Teonith joined the Sanggunian Kabataan and Local Youth Development Council Planning for 2022-2024. She was in a group for the Committee on Health together with other Barangay Sanggunian Kabataan Chairpersons, youth and student leaders. She now has an expanded platform and more allies to raise awareness about AYSRH information and plan AYSRH information campaign activities for the city.