Women supporters of the Reproductive Health (RH)) bill flocked to the SB Park in Batasan Hills, Quezon City on May 29 for the celebration of the International Day of Action for Women’s Health. The observance carried the theme “Malusog na Nanay, Masaya ang Buhay” (Healthy Mothers, Happy Life).
Constituents of barangays Batasan, Commonweallth, and Payatas in Quezon City, who wore purple advocacy shirts, urged lawmakers to never forget the women who are in need of reproductive health and rights education campaigns, programs and services.
The “Pag-aaruga sa Kababaihan Tungo sa Malusog na Kinabukasan” grand rally was organized by the National Anti-Poverty Commission (NAPC), Philippine Commission on Women (PCW), Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), Department of Health (DOH) and the non-government organization Likhaan Center for Women’s Health (Likhaan) in partnership with the Quezon City government.
“Karapatan ng mga babae na pumili ng pamamaraan para maisabuhay ang kanilang responsibilidad bilang magulang,” (Women have the right to choose the manner they wish to fulfill their parental responsibility.) Social Welfare and Development Secretary Dinky Soliman said. She added that social workers under the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) are ready to attend to the needs of women and men including RH concerns. The 4Ps is the flagship human development program of the Government that aims to break the poverty cycle by providing conditional cash grants to extremely poor households. The program accords mothers the responsibility to manage the family’s finances while focusing on the health, nutrition and education of the members.
The programme was made more vibrant with creative presentations which include those of the 4Ps beneficiaries from barangays Batasan, Commonwealth and Payatas where women and children depicted how the 4Ps improved their lives because of government interventions.
PCW Chairperson Remedios Ignacio-Rikken reminded the women supporters to stop disregarding their health and other needs and to exercise their right to rest/recreation and right to a happy sex life. “Kailangan nating matutong makipag-usap sa asawang lalaki. Hindi sa lahat ng oras ay gusto ng babae na magbuntis. Ipasa ang RH bill para masaya ang mag-asawa,” (We should learn how to negotiate with the husband. Women do not want to get pregnant every so often. Pass the RH bill so married couples will be happy.) Rikken said.
The 2008 National Demographic and Health Survey (NDHS) showed that more than half (54%) of married women age 15-49 do not want another child, whereas 19 percent of them want to have another child but would prefer to wait two (2) or more years. Moreover, only 63 percent of births in the country are planned; 20 percent are mistimed; and 16 percent are unwanted.
The Government’s new health reform plan Kalusugan Pangkalahatan (health for all) or KP program was discussed by Department of Health (DOH) Director Honorata Catibog. “Kasama ang family planning sa tugon ng pamahalaan sa usaping pangkalusugan. At isa sa mga layunin ng KP ang pagpapa-miyembro ng lahat ng pamilya sa PhilHealth para sa mas maigting na social protection,” (Family planning is among the Government’s response to the health agenda. And one of KP’s thrusts is having all families become members of PhilHealth for a more substantial social protection) Catibog said.
NAPC Undersecretary Florencia Dorotan said the “cycle of poor health and poverty” can be broken if a national policy on RH is passed. Likhaan Executive Director Junice Melgar supported Dorotan’s statement. “Ang ating Pangulong Benigno S. Aquino III ay naninindigan na kailangan natin ng RH. Malaki ang pag-asa na maipasa na ito,” (President Benigno S. Aquino III is firm on his stand that the country needs RH policy. There is a strong likelihood that a national policy would be passed soon), Melgar said.
Presidential Commission for the Urban Poor (PCUP) Chairman Hernani Panganiban said women do not only give life but also provide order and harmony in the family and society.
Meanwhile, Commission on Human Rights (CHR) Commissioner Norberto dela Cruz said it is about time for the country to add up the RH bill to the list of laws that are in support of maternal and child health. Among these laws are the Expanded Breastfeeding Promotion Act of 2009 (RA 10028), Universal Newborn Hearing Screening and Intervention Act of 2009 (RA 9709), and An Act Increasing Maternity Benefits in Favor of Women Workers in the Private Sector (RA 7322), and the Magna Carta of Women (RA 9710).
Section 20 (Right to Health) of the Magna Carta of Women (MCW) calls for the State to implement a comprehensive national strategy that will reduce women’s health risks, particularly those resulting from complications of pregnancy and childbirth.
In a separate occasion, Rikken said the RH bill, if enacted, will not only re-enforce existing laws but will “improve the lives of Filipinos especially women who carry the burden resulting from poverty and high maternal mortality” by ensuring that individuals and couples have access to information and services addressing their RH needs.