News

Life interrupted: Teenage pregnancy in Myanmar

15 January 2018
“I did not really understand the consequences of our love.” Every year, almost 50,000 teenage girls in Myanmar give birth. One of them is Thiri, who was 15 years old when she became pregnant with her boyfriend.

Every year, almost 50,000 teenage girls in Myanmar give birth. One of them is Thiri, a teenager in a small Myanmar town.

“My boyfriend and I were in love. We were so close and so sweet to each other. We were happy when we were together.”

Thiri was 15 years old when she became pregnant.

“I was devastated. I’ve always loved going to school. But when got pregnant, I was forced to leave school.”

A marriage was hastily arranged. Thiri gave birth to a little girl.

Weathering the storm

When Thiri’s boyfriend who had stayed in school graduated and moved to a bigger town to attend higher education, Thiri was left behind to live with her parents in law and to care for the baby alone. She rarely heard from her new husband. The boy she had loved became a stranger. She keenly felt the injustice of having had to give up her studies, while he was busy with a new life at college.

The marriage quickly fell apart.

But Thiri was fortunate in a way that many girls are not: Thiri’s mother never hesitated to stand up for her daughter and granddaughter. She and her husband welcomed them back into their modest home. Together the three generations weathered the storm of community disapproval and Thiri’s anguish over lost opportunities for her future.

Comprehensive Sexuality Education

“I never learnt about these things in school or anywhere else. Before I got pregnant, I did not really understand the consequences of our love”, says Thiri.

To help young people like Thiri and her boyfriend, UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, advocates for comprehensive sexuality education (CSE) in Myanmar.

“To make informed and safe choices about their bodies and their lives, young people need knowledge. Comprehensive sexuality education teaches children and young people the emotional, physical and social aspects of sexuality”, says Janet Jackson, UNFPA Representative for Myanmar.

Comprehensive sexuality education is a curriculum-based approach that equips children and young people with knowledge and values that empower them to:

  • Realize their health, well-being and dignity
  • Develop respectful social and sexual relationships
  • Consider how their choices affect their own well-being and that of others
  • Understand and ensure the protection of their rights throughout their lives

The new United Nations guidance on CSE places sexuality education within the framework of human rights and gender equality. It also shows how sexuality education can help achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.

“Now I don’t have a good education. I can’t get a decent job.”

Today Thiri’s daughter is almost three years old. Thiri herself is still only 18 years old.

Today Thiri’s daughter is almost three years old. Thiri herself is still only 18 years old.

“When I was in school, I was a good student. But now I don’t have a good education. I can’t get a decent job. For a long time, I didn’t know how to go forward in my life.”

Her breakthrough came when she joined the local youth group.

“The youth group in my town gives me strength. I’ve made the decision to study economic management, and I’ve been accepted to a distance learning course. My future feels brighter now. I know I will make it.”

UNFPA works for a Myanmar where every young person’s potential is fulfilled.

*Thiri’s name has been changed to protect her privacy.