Iday Simbajon is a community health worker in the Philippines. Life has not been easy for Iday and other women in poor communities. “Women were very much oriented towards only serving their men and taking care of their kids. I was one of these women, and we had eight kids. I was really having a rough time making ends meet.”
In both urban and rural poor communities in the Philippines, women’s access to reproductive health services is severely lacking. One in three pregnancies is unplanned. The maternal and infant mortality rates in the Philippines are among the highest in Asia. The country’s patchwork of public and private healthcare means that even basic and emergency health services are out of reach for far too many.
Iday wants more for the people of her community – she wants a society based on equal access to health services. “Whether you are rich or poor, you must have an equal amount and quality of services.” Iday is building a society with this vision, right now.
Iday works with the Likhaan Centre for Women’s Health, which provides free health services to over 30,000 impoverished women each year. At Likhaan’s clinics, women can access services such as pre- and post-natal obstetric care, information and access to family planning, gynecological care, and counselling related to domestic violence. Likhaan also supports women in learning more about their rights, in organizing to demand better housing and municipal services, and in advocating for improved public health policy.
Likhaan and Inter Pares are embarking on a new program to increase poor people’s access to the national health insurance program, and to establish new women’s health centres with birthing clinics.