News - Payatas Women Demand RH Services


Susan, not her real name, is all for family planning. At 35, she is pregnant again. With five other children, ranging in ages from two to 10, she has long stopped thinking of children as blessings.

 

“Araw-araw ka na lang kumakayod para lang mabuhay. Construction worker ang asawa ko. Kulang ang sweldo niya para sa pamilya. Pinoproblema ko araw-araw kung paano kakain ang mga anak ko, paano ang renta sa bahay, paano ang bayad sa kuryente. Ilang lingo na lang, manganganak na ako. Gusto ko sana sa lying-in manganak pero wala naman kaming pera. Nagdadasal na lang ako na normal ang deliverypara naman di mahirapan ang hilot sa akin,” shesaid.

 

“Pagkatapos ko manganak, magpapa-ligate na ako sa clinic. Nag-try ako mag-pills noon, pero di tuloy-tuloy. ‘Pag wala ako makuha na libre sa clinic, natitigil ang pag-inom ko. Ang asawa ko naman, hindi rin kaya bumili ng condom. Kaya nag-rhythm na lang kami. Ito ang nangyari, nabuntis uli ako. Ang hirap kasi magbilang ng araw kung kelan ka safe at kelan ka fertile,” sheexplained.

 

Susan’s story is common in her community of Payatas, considered as the poorest and one of the most populous in Quezon city. Many of the women of reproductive age (WRAs) have a basic understanding of family planning and want to practice it. But they cannot always do this because of the limited availability of free, or even affordable, family planning supplies. For them, whatever money their families get is best spent for food and for their other basic needs.

 

The baseline survey done by the Democratic Socialist Women of the Philippines (DSWP) among WRAs in Payatas echoed this situation. Called Ala Tsamba: Buhay RH sa Payatas, it surveyed 621 women, or more than 10 percent of the households in the community, on their sexual and reproductive health needs and rights.

 

Ala tsamba is an expression used by ordinary Filipinos when referring to the chances they take and their uncertain consequences. Ala tsamba also characterizes the chances young Filipinos and WRAs take when it comes to their reproductive health because of limited means and opportunities to fully achieve it. Ala tsamba is one compelling reason why the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Law must be strongly implemented – so that every Filipino, especially poor women and young people, can enjoy their right to a healthy and productive life.

 

Survey

 

“We want to help address the RH needs of the women in Payatas. But there was very little data on them. Supposedly may plano yung barangay council on family planning pero hindi nila natapos. Although we know in theory what the RH needs of the women there because DSWP has been working with them for quite a while, we still need data to be able to come up with a comprehensive plan. This is the reason why we first had the survey,” explained Elizabeth Angsioco, DSWP’s executive director.

 

DSWP trained its members and some women from Payatas to do the survey. One of them was 47-year old Maria Jane Hontiveros, a mother of five chidren. “Nahirapan ako sa survey. Hindi kasi basta tinanongmo yung mga kababaihan. Matinding palinawaganang nangyari. Bawat tanong, pinapaliwanag mopero di dapat lumabas kung ano ang sarili mongopinyon o sagot sa mga tanong. Hindi ka dapatmagkokomento,” she recalled.

 

Angsioco described the question-and-answer that happened while conducting the survey as “probing.”

 

“Huhugutin nila ang sagot sa respondent. Repeat the question, give examples, just so you are sure that the respondent understood the question. This is a tricky process, that’s why we trained first those who took the survey,” she said.

 

This painstaking process resulted in responses that truly represented the RH situation of Payatas’ WRAs. The survey showed that majority of the Payatas women wanted three children. But most of them already had 3.4 children. More than a third of them said all their pregnancies were unplanned because of their lack of access to RH education and services.

 

For the last 10 years, Payatas’ population grew by 15.2 percent, significantly higher than the city’s 3.6 percent.

 

Many of them said they should give birth in a hospital or a lying-in clinic but more than half of

them gave birth at home and were assisted by a midwife in their delivery. Almost all of them considered family planning important and believed that government must be the one that should provide family planning services and commodities, including a steady supply of contraceptives. Presently, the health centers in the community are the main sources of family planning commodities. However, because of their erratic supply, more than half of those who

used contraceptives stopped using them.

 

From the findings of the survey, the women demanded a comprehensive RH program in their community, with a strong RH education, consistent supply of contraceptives, increase in the number of health personnel, an exclusive RH program for the youth, improved health facilities, and a birthing facility within the community.

 

For Angsioco, one disturbing finding was the magnitude of domestic violence experienced by the respondents. “They know about their rights. Peroparang hindi nila alam kung ano ang gagawin nilapag binugbog na sila. Some of them said it was their fault, others said ‘ganon talaga, nangyayari yon.”

 

Going back to the respondents

 

One unique feature in the whole process of doing the survey is the validation of the findings that DSWP did with the respondents.

 

“Marami nang grupo ang pumunta sa Payatas. Marami na ang gumawa ng mga pag-aaral at nag-interviewsa kanila para matulungan sila. Pero hindi na bumalik ang mga grupong ito,” Angsiocosaid.

 

DSWP went back to the respondents and presented to them the findings. They discussed them in a forum that also served to clarify lingering questions and misconceptions about some of the questions. When the findings were published as Ala Tsamba: Buhay RH sa Payatas, it was written entirely in Tagalog.

 

“I purposely wrote it in Tagalog because the target is the WRAs of Payatas who are mostly unschooled. Natuto sila. Binabasa nila. Napapakinabangan nila,” Angsioco added.

 

The results of the survey and the women’s recommendations were presented in a public forum, with the head of the city’s health department and other health officials attending. Barangay officials, health care providers and barangay health workers working in Payatas also attended.

Angsioco had also sounded off the city mayor about the results. “He is interested to know more about them and to use them in his plan to develop Payatas.”

 

Taking advantage of the momentum presented by the survey and building on its results, DSWP, together with barangay officials, organized a Community Barangay RH (CBRH) composed of women volunteers who would work with local health providers and barangay officials in crafting and implementing initiatives that would translate the RP/RH law into local actions. Among these are (1) community-based education on RH, family planning, high risk pregnancies, HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases, and gender-based violence; and (2) forming a referral network of public and private health and service providers to render better RH services to poor women and youth in Payatas.

 

The CBRH would also encourage and assist pregnant women, WRAs and young people in the community to avail of RH and family planning information and services, including responding to cases of gender-based violence.

 

The newly-formed CBRH is still in the process of firming up its work plan, the first step toward fulfilling the demand for a comprehensive RH program expressed by the women and youth of Payatas.


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