Controlling Their Own Bodies, Controlling Their Own Lives

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 Inter Pares Executive Director Rita Morbia (centre) with Likhaan staff and volunteers in Manila, the Philippines.Credit: Alfredo Melgar/Likhaan

Dindi was 15 years old when she accompanied her 13 year-old-friend to a Manila hospital. Her friend was pregnant, scared, and hemorrhaging. She barely survived. This experience had a profound impact. Today, at age 21, Dindi is a passionate volunteer advocate for reproductive health and rights with Likhaan Center for Women’s Health, Inter Pares’ counterpart in the Philippines.

Gielda also volunteers with Likhaan. Almost 40, she married at 16 and has ten children. Gielda lived in Manila during the decade-long ban on contraception from 2000 to 2011. She loves her children, and at the same time speaks openly about how fundamentally different her life and her children’s lives would have been had she been able to control her fertility.

It is 2016, and yet 225 million women globally are unable to access safe and effective family planning. The reasons range from cost, to social stigma, to a lack of political power. Most of these women live in the poorest countries on the planet. Too many of them are adolescents who have had no access to comprehensive sexuality education or services. There are many places in the world where teaching girls – and boys – about their bodies is still deemed socially, politically, and/or religiously unacceptable.

Inter Pares is a feminist organization. We believe that women should be able to decide if and when to have children; that they should be able to bear children safely; and that access to appropriate and relevant information and services on reproductive health and sexuality are key to women’s and girls’ health.

Inter Pares and Likhaan thus welcome the new expansion in the Government of Canada’s focus on maternal, newborn and child health (MNCH) to include reproductive and sexual health and rights. This change recognizes that women are not just mothers or potential mothers, and that control over one’s body is integral to living to one’s full potential.

In this context, Inter Pares recently signed an agreement for $2.6 million over four years with the Government of Canada to work in collaboration with Likhaan. This program will support the establishment of four reproductive health clinics in the Philippines, where women in Manila’s impoverished urban areas, and in typhoon-affected Eastern Samar will be able to access safe and affordable healthcare. Components of the program include family planning, pre- and post-natal care, access to high-quality birthing facilities with skilled birth attendants, and emergency obstetric care.

Another key pillar of the program is community health promotion related to women and girls’ reproductive and sexual health. The program will also help families register for the national health insurance program, PhilHealth, so that they can access services at no charge. Likhaan’s clinics will go through a process of becoming accredited by PhilHealth so that by the end of the program, they will be independently funded by their own government.

Inter Pares is proud to support Likhaan’s work of improving reproductive health and  fostering women’s autonomy and empowerment in the Philippines – work that will ultimately change women’s lives.

Inter Pares would like to thank Global Affairs Canada for its financial support to this program.

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  • Rachelle
    NFP is family planning that is effective and does not run into cultural barriers. It is ecological, and drug free, and a good option to women who do not have access to doctors. I would hope that Inter Pares is not engaging in Western population suppression tactics in the Global South.
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