Health Care

Sexuality and Spirituality: Using art and contraceptives to teach sexual health

aRt-H: USING ART AND CONTRACEPTIVES TO TEACH SEXUAL HEALTH IN UP DILIMAN


SAS_ART-H poster

 

(Quezon City, Philippines—September 22, 2011) Sex and Sensibilities (SAS), in partnership with DKT Reproductive Health (Frenzy Condoms and Filipinay), will be holding a mandala art making contest using contraceptives on September 26-28 at theUniversity of the Philippines-Diliman. A cash prize of up to P15,000 is at stake for groups with a winning mandala design.

The word “mandala” is Sanskrit for both “circle” and “center.” Mandalas are a good way to communicate sexual health, because mandalas are seen as a model for the organizational structure of life itself. Mandalas are also reflections of the spiritual self because they offer a unique and powerful way to self-discovery and healing through the use of imagery, symbolism, color and balance.

About 100 UP students are expected to participate in the ART-H contest. On Monday, September 26, registered groups will attend the ART-H primer: a sexual health workshop and mandala art making orientation in Palma Hall. This primer is open to all: contestants, bloggers, journalists, writers, students, RH advocates.

During the contest on Tuesday and Wednesday, the participants will create mandalas using Frenzy condoms and birth control pills to be provided by DKT-Reproductive Health. They are expected to create designs linked to the related key issues: reproductive health, maternal health, women’s sexual health rights, and informed choice.

The mandalas will be evaluated based on a panel of judges and the number of most “Likes” on the Sex and Sensibilities Facebook page. All artworks will also be displayed in front of the office of the College of Social Science and Philosophy Student Council, located at the West Wing of Palma Hall, for a week.

“By using art, students will get to touch, feel, and interact with condoms and birth control pills. We want to create an environment that will allow young people to ask questions about their sexual health and openly discuss sexuality issues. We see this as a concrete step in fostering a healthy and responsible attitude towards sex among young adults,” says Ms. Ana Santos, founder of SAS. “We highly encourage the participants to attend the workshop as a primer to the contest because the story has to be complete–it is not enough that you’ve touched or felt condoms or know about birth control pills. You need to know how to use them properly and responsibly,” she adds.

DKT Reproductive Health, manufacturer of Frenzy condoms and Filipinay line of contraceptive pills, has always been a staunch supporter of SAS in actively promotion positive sexuality and informed choice.

This project is supported by the UP-Diliman based network, RH AGENDA (Reproductive Health and Gender Advocates Movement).

Students must join in groups of 4-10 members, and must indicate time slot for the ART-H primer: 10AM-12PM or 12-2PM. The participants will then be divided in two groups for the contest on Tuesday, September 27, and Wednesday, September 28 from 11:30AM-1PM at the Palma Hall lobby. The group that lands first place will win P15,000, 2nd P12,000, and 3rd P10,000 in cash.

To inquire and/or register, students may email [email protected], or contact +63917-851-0209 or +63917-836-0345 from September 1-22, 2011.

For the complete mechanics and details, please visit www.sexandsensibilities.com and follow @dash_of_sas on Twitter.

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Sex and Sensibilities.com (SAS) is a non-profit website committed to improving the level of understanding of sexual reproductive health rights among Filipinos through the dissemination of accurate, practical and factual information on STI/HIV prevention and population and development in governance. SAS open to all, and is represented in other online media outlets, including popular social media networks Facebook and Twitter.

 

 

Towards a Strategic Development Road Map (Update)

The following is a matrix of the Strategies contained in the government’s Philippine Development Plan 2011-16  plotted against the five key results areas under the Cabinet Cluster system of the Aquino Cabinet.

The five themes include: 1) Good Governance and Anti-Corruption, 2) Human Development and Poverty Reduction, 3) Economic Development, 4) Security, Justice and Peace, and 5) Climate Change, Adaptation and Mitigation. This was contained in Executive Order 43: Pursuing our Social Contract with the Filipino People Through the Reorganization of the Cabinet Clusters.

The strategies under each theme were taken from the Philippine Development Plan 2011-16. In some cases, the actual targets were contained in it or some other announcement such as the renewable energy target. Some targets we are actually proposing here based on the intent of the PDP and other statements by the government. Some targets remain ambiguous or require quantification, but at least a measurement indicator is identified here.

This should form the basis for a periodic review of the government’s progress in meeting its official development plan and agenda. In the future, we will be revisiting these targets to hold this government to account. Comments on the construction of the matrix are quite welcome. Feel free to point out things that are missing or need to be revised.

Scorecard of Social Contract and Philippine Development Plan 2011-16 Targets

UPDATE:

Good governance targets

I chose to go with the World Bank’s Good Governance indicators because the government has adopted its whole philosophy of economic development from the Washington Consensus. It is only but fitting that it should benchmark itself against the indicators set by this Washington-based institution.

In setting the targets for the nation, I had to benchmark our rating with our East Asian neighbors. For instance under control of corruption, the Philippines and Indonesia were at 27.1 and 28.1 respectively, China and Vietnam were at 36.2 and 36.7, Thailand was at 51, and Malaysia was at 58.1 back in 2009. Hong Kong and Singapore were in the 90s.

It is only but fitting that we try to break into the range of Thailand and Malaysia. So I said we need to be achieving above 50%. I used a similar approach with the other indicators in this area.

Human Development and Poverty Reduction

Most of the targets found here were lifted from the government’s plan. The only target which I had to set on my own was the HDI target. To do this I simply projected the current trend from 2005 to 2010.  The target of reaching a 0.65 value for HDI means we would catch up to where Thailand and Sri Lanka were back in 2010.

All the other targets dealing with poverty reduction, literacy, land reform and distribution, Pantawid Pamilya recipients, housing and reaching the MDG targets were all based on official published documents by the government.

Economic Development

Most of the targets came from official published documents by the government. The only targets where I took the liberty of setting were the fiscal spending targets, but even there I took the policy pronouncements contained in the PDP into account.

For example, the PDP stated that its Medium Term Expenditure goal was to “substantially increase productive expenditures and catch up with the accumulated deficits in these areas.” It also noted that in 2007, the average expenditure on education among our Asian neighbors was 3.9% of GDP. To “catch-up” and make up for our accumulated deficits, we would need to at least match that spending, which is reflected in the target.

Aside from education, the PDP also made mention of our infrastructure spending which is woefully inadequate when compared with that of China, Vietnam, and Thailand which spent upwards of 7, 8 and 14% of GDP over the last decade. The 5% target was based on the World Bank’s recommended level for a middle income country such as ours. In other words, it was a modest but reasonable target in light of our regional peers’ spending.

The targets for achieving higher rankings in the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness and World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business reports are self-explanatory. You can see by reading their most recent editions the countries in whose proximity we would be landing if we achieved the targets.

The consumer welfare and agricultural productivity targets are yet undefined and merit further discussion.

Security, Justice and Peace

The target for achieving political stability was arrived at similar to the other good governance targets already discussed above. The defense modernization target assumes that the government has a revised plan for this and will be working towards achieving 100% of it by the end of its term. Finally, the press freedom strategy and target, I had to personally add given the silence of the PDP on it. I based this on PNoy’s policy pronouncements at an AFP conference call. I further believe the Human Rights Commission should seek to publish official statistics in the area so that we can aim to bring that figure down.

Climate Change, Adaptation and Mitigation

The targets for reducing environmental damage and casualties are yet undefined but flow directly from the strategies outlined in the PDP. The rest of the targets contained here are from official published statements by the government, including the renewable energy target.

Why the Need for a Scorecard?

It has been nearly three months since the cabinet reorganization was announced, and yet it seems no further developments were made towards fleshing out the social contract in terms of major strategies and targets, which the EO that created it envisioned.

That is the reason why we have taken this bold step towards developing this strategic development road map. Of course, nothing would please us more than to see the government announce something similar. When it does, we will be sure to revise the document to reflect it.

The Propinoy Project began as an attempt to hold the government to account for its electoral promises. Now that the government has officially laid down its official policies and plan for its term, it is but fitting that we assess its future performance against its own targets with objective baselines and independent and reliable sources.

This matrix as detailed as it is cannot capture the complexities at the implementation or operational level. We leave that to the community service organizations who are partnered with various agencies to monitor. At least at the strategic level we can look at this scorecard to assess whether the government is doing the right things (and doing them right!) at the operational level to achieve its strategic goals.

Round and round we go

Prof Solita Monsod in her weekly column for The BusinessWorld quotes a paper authored by Ms Rosario Manasan of the Philippine Institute for Development Studies or PIDS a government think tank which estimates that based on its current trajectory, the Philippines will meet the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) target of achieving universal primary education by (brace yourself) 2079(!) sixty four years behind the 2015 deadline.

That is unless the government changes its course and raises education expenditures in the near term. Currently there is a mere 65% completion rate of students that enter primary school. Many factors contribute to the high attrition rate, most of which we are all too familiar with: large class sizes, poor teachers, a backlog of classrooms, materials and clean drinking water, improper access for disabled and indigenous children.

To bring the current attainment rates up to 90% by 2016 (the end of President Aquino’s term) would require a near-doubling of the current education spending in the next year according to the paper. Manasan provides forward budget estimates of P382 billion (3.8% of GDP) for 2012, P308 billion for 2013 (2.3%), P325 billion for 2014 (2.8%), P341 billion for 2015 (2.7%), and P355 billion for 2016 (2.6%). The spending “surge” in 2012 includes provisions to bridge the capital spending backlog accumulated over recent years. The likelihood of this happening is very low considering the fiscal consolidation being undertaken to contain public deficits and debt.

Given its inability to raise and sustain a tax collection rate above 15% of GDP (Manasan says it should be around 18%), the government has resorted to expenditure contraction as a means of keeping its deficits in check. To raise its tax take to the prescribed level while sticking to its “no new taxes” pledge, the Aquino administration would have to pull a few policy levers at its disposal. What are these? Well, they’re the usual suspects: rationalizing tax exemptions to investors, restructuring excise taxes on sin products, and reforming the road users tax.

These are all familiar prognostications. After all the animosity the government has recently faced over reducing subsidies for commuter trains, highways and utilities, the politics of increasing rates on alchohol, tobacco and automobiles would make the enactment of two out of the three proposed measures unlikely.

Improving Retention

In this year’s budget the Aquino administration has tried to improve retention in schools via the demand-side of the equation by placing more money in the conditional cash transfers (CCT) program. This is a recognition that apart from inadequate inputs from the public sector, it is the lack of family income that drags attainment levels down. The problem of course is that once demand for education on the part of families is stimulated, supply on the part of the government will have to surge to meet it.

So round and round we go, locked in the policy/spin cycle until the year 2079…unless of course we introduce some kind of structural “break” in the process. That could come in the form of a reproductive health act that would allow parents to make informed decisions about the number and spacing of their children. By all accounts, that would mean lowering the average size of each household if the true wishes of parents were fulfilled. If this were introduced this year, its effects would be felt in the kindergarten enrollment levels of 2016. While current enrollment growth rates are already declining, the reform would slow them down even more. This would allow the government some breathing room to catch-up with the demand for schooling.

Many players on both sides of the debate do not seem to appreciate just how close their positions are.

Of course the reason why past incarnations of the RH Bill have failed to make it through Congress is the opposition faced from the powerful Catholic bishops. From watching the panel discussion on Al Jazeera TV (see video clip embedded below), the main stumbling block in this Congress has been what an abortifacient consists of. Bishop Ted Bacani seems to accede to other forms of man-made contraceptives that prevent conception. Perhaps this is in part due to the Pope’s own statement regarding the acceptability of condoms in preventing the spread of HIV and AIDS.

Many players on both sides of the debate do not seem to appreciate just how close their positions are. While the current RH Bill does not explicitly enumerate the different forms of legal and safe methods of birth control that would be offered; by the same token, it does not seek to legalize abortion either. The position of the clergy seems to be that under the bill, substances, both herbal and synthetic, that induce termination of pregnancy (abortifacients) could be construed as legal forms of contraception. An example of this the morning after pill, that in some countries has been offered to victims of rape, might form part of the mix unless explicitly prohibited.

As presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda pointed out, that was an issue up for debate. The disengagement of the bishops from the process is the reason for the current impasse. It is quite unfortunate that Ms Beth Angsioco an advocate of the RH Bill was not asked to clarify her position on the matter. It would have been enlightening to hear it rather than the toing and froing over rights that occurred. It should be noted that even in countries where abortion is legal, the use of such morning after pills is tightly controlled. For the sake of guaranteeing its passage through Congress, it would be best for advocates of the bill to compromise and  leave the debate over whether or not to legalize abortifacients for another day.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FXYo5kmc6Mo&fs=1&showinfo=1&rel=1]

 

Untangling the Complex Policy Web

Returning to the issue of how to finance education. It is quite clear that in the near term, the bridging of the education gap will be difficult particularly because the government is hoping for a credit upgrade from the various rating agencies. This would mean reducing the fiscal deficit to within 1-2% of GDP. One cannot discount the benefits a one or two notch upgrade would bring about. You cannot get there without fiscal consolidation or controlling cost pressures in the budget, improved collection by the government revenue agencies recently reported notwithstanding.

The basic source of this gap is the sheer size of our population. Reducing its growth rate even fractionally would have huge benefits down the track in terms of education, health and employment outcomes. The government may not be able to attain the MDG target by its deadline, but it can lay the groundwork towards balancing the conflicting policy goals it has to contend with at the moment.

Sen. Kiko Pangilinan's 12 Christmas wishes for our country and our leader. What's yours?

PNoy’s ally in the Senate, Sen. Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan, lists down yesterday, December 19, his 12 wishes for President Benigno Aquino III and for the country. First on Sen. Kiko’s list is for the peace talks in Mindanao to start, followed by a hope for a new image in the Philippine tourism industry. As what was expected, the most talked about wish among the 12 is the Senator’s 4th wish; “A girlfriend for PNoy.” Below is Sen. Kiko Pangilinan’s complete wish list this coming Christmas. Care to share yours? Read more

What the CBCP Assumes in the Campaign against the RH Bill

That the RH Bill is simply about contraception. It is not. It seeks to provide better training to midwives, access to basic pre-natal care services, a range of family planning methods, post-birth maternity checks, education on and treatment for fatal sexually transmitted diseases, and other basic health care rights.

That the only contraception is artificial contraception. It is not. Sec 3a. specifically states “there should be no bias for either modern or natural methods of family planning.”

That sex is a sin. It is not. Otherwise you or I will not be here today. And not every Filipino believes in the concept of sin, and not every Filipino shares the same religious values.

That contraceptives necessarily promote frivolity. It does not. The only scientific correlation between contraceptives and sex is the incidence of impregnation and disease reduces significantly with their use. It is not necessarily a license to be licentious.

That the bill is pro-abortion. It does not provide for abortion, it simply seeks to provide care for women who suffer from complications (about 100,000 per year), and from which 1,000 Filipinas die every year. And please don’t tell me that their death is their punishment for seeking an abortion. The ban on abortion, and therefore the high fatality from them, don’t change the reasons women have abortions in the first place. A lot of them more justifiable than your narrow punitive and puritan minds think.

That contraception is synonymous to abortion. It is not. The two are mutually exclusive. Contraception is to counter conception, abortion is to terminate a pregnancy which can only exist after conception. If abortion is performed, conception was not countered. Thus no contraception occurred/contraceptive was used. If contraception is used, then an abortion can never take place; that is unless contraception fails, but if it does, then the Church’s flawed argument is likewise moot.

That couples can support an infinite number of children. They cannot. And thus the Population and Development aspect of the Reproductive Health and Population Development Bill.

That couples are aware of the consequences of an infinite number of children. They do not necessarily. And thus the education aspect of the bill. Should you be punished for something you do not understand? In law, it is called mens rea or a guilty mind.

That those affected by this law, all Filipinos, are Catholic and believe in the teachings of the Church. They are not. That is why Church and State are separate. Please refer to constitution.

Most tellingly, the CBCP assumes that the Catholic Church has lost its guiding power. If the RH Bill enables health practitioners to explain both Church-approved and modern family planning methods, and who by the nature of the provisions of the bill are unable to persuade a couple from choosing one or another, and instead places the power of decision solely on the couple, then if the Church can teach right then the couple will choose the “morally superior” option (in the Church’s POV), would they not?

And if you are a Catholic, and the RH Bill is in place, then simply do not opt to use contraception if it does not sit well with you. But give others who do not share your belief the opportunity to make a decision for themselves. Do not take away their rights to control their own lives.

The Church’s adamant rejection of the bill reflects sorely on the Church’s loss of faith in themselves to properly guide its flock in the face of a “challenge” to the old ways of the Church. Its doubt in itself, its blindness to divergent beliefs, its stubborn insistence that the teachings of the Church (which after all is a religious institution comprised of mere mortals, its leadership with little to zero experience in sex, family rearing and actual economic output) are infallible and universal — all this puts in danger the health and development of an entire nation.

And lest you need reminding, CBCP, GOD GAVE US FREE WILL. Let us have it.


Marie Claire in 2008 launched an ad campaign supporting the RH Bill.

“The Marie Claire Mouths”

"Women should represent themselves."

"Don't less someone else speak for you."

"Don't let someone else decide for you."

How Mr. Condom made Thailand a better place

Mechai Viravaidya was recognized by The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation today with a $1 million award for confronting “taboo subjects like sex and HIV/AIDS directly in order to save lives." Photo: AFP/Getty

I think the Philippines should take a closer look at neighboring Thailand. They used to have a 3.3% growth rate, much worse than our 2% growth annually. Mechai Viravaidya, or Mr. Condom of Thailand, shares in this TEDxChange video how Thailand was able to raise the Thai standard of living by using population control as the first step. Keep in mind that the majority of Thais are Buddhists but still, the same can be done here if we will finally separate Church from State.

Thanks to Krishna for sharing with me this video.

Arroyo spreads news in New York about her admin's feats

Arroyo spreads news in New York about her admin’s feats
AMITA LEGASPI
GMANews.TV

“Start spreading the news…” that’s how Liza Minelli’s 1977 song “New York, New York” goes.

That’s what former President and incumbent Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo did. At two recent events in New York in the United States, Arroyo highlighted the achievements of her administration.

Taunted in the Philippines for corruption issues, Arroyo found two international venues — the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) conference and the Important Dinner for Women — to cite her administration’s achievements, especially for women.

Arroyo attended the two international gatherings from September 20 to 22. Arroyo’s classmate, former US President Bill Clinton, and Queen Rania Al-Abdullah of Jordan invited her to these events.

Both events focused on addressing women issues related to the Millenium Development Goals (MDGs).

The MDGs are eight international development goals that all 192 United Nations member states, and at least 23 international organizations, have agreed to achieve by the year 2015.

These goals include:
(1) Eradicating extreme poverty and hunger;
(2) Achieving universal primary education;
(3) Promoting gender equality and empowering women;
(4) Reducing child mortality rate;
(5) Improving maternal health;
(6) Combating HIV/AIDS, malaria, and other diseases;
(7) Ensuring environmental sustainability, and
(8) Developing a global partnership for development.

Presenter of commitments

In the 5th CGI conference, Arroyo was the “presenter of commitments” on enhanced education for about one million girls.

In a press release, Elena Bautista-Horn, Arroyo’s spokesperson, said the “commitment” was shared by Barclays (a financial services institution), Goldman Sachs (a global investment banking and securities firm) and Room to Read (a non-profit organization based in the US).

Women empowerment

During the 5th Important Dinner for Women, Arroyo was a discussant on the lagging targets on women empowerment and maternal deaths.

The discussion was participated in by Netherlands Prime minister Emily de Jongh-elnage, and Ida Odinga, wife of Kenya’s Prime Minister, among others.

During the event, the former president shared her administration’s accomplishments.

Arroyo said the country was among the world’s top in providing economic opportunities for women. She said the 2006-2007 global entrepreneurship monitor noted that the Philippines was the only in the country in the world where the women are more active in starting business than men.

She added there was a significant increase of women in the labor force, with 49% of all women now working, topping gender equality among managers, professional and technical workers.

Arroyo admin’s achievements

Arroyo also cited that the Philippines has been at the top of the ranking of developing countries in the World Economic Forum’s “global gender gap index” for four consecutive years. She added that the Philippines also has the highest ranking in Asia.

Arroyo further said the government tops in gender equality among legislators and senior officials, adding that women dominate civil service at the technical level.

“The Philippines continues to be the top performer in gender equality in literacy rate and enrollment in primary, secondary and tertiary education. The country also tops gender equality on life expentancy with women outliving men,” the former President said.

She also said that her administration also made landmark legislations for women, such as the enactment of the Magna Carta for Women, a comprehensive women’s human rights law that seeks to eliminate discrimination against women.

The magna carta seeks to recognize, protect, fulfill and promote the rights of Filipino women, particularly those in the marginalized sector.

She also cited the Anti-Violence against Women and the Trafficking Persons Act of 2003, recognizing that women are the number one victims of human trafficking.

Empowerment of women

She said the Philippines is the only country that automatically appropriates 5% of its annual budget for the empowerment of Filipino women.

Yet, like many other countries, the Philippines faces the difficult challenge of reducing maternal mortality from 160/100,000 in 2009 to 55/100,000 in 2015, she said.

Arroyo said maternal deaths affect not only women empowerment but also the promotion of an intact family unit, the breeding ground of an individual’s values and direction for the future.

She said most of maternal deaths are caused by the absence of birth experts and proper birth facilities.

Arroyo said her administration has thus made health care services more available for women. They also made pregnancy quality for public health insurance.

Arroyo also put priority to facility-based, rather than home-based delivery of babies, by upgrading the gynecological, obstetrics, and surgical services of government hospitals.

Aside from attending the two events, Arroyo also held meetings with philanthropists and non government organizations to discuss possible projects addressing the concerns of women and overseas Filipino workers. Arroyo also discussed possible infrastructure, relief, and reconstruction projects. –VVP, GMANews.TV

Spain provides €3.5 million for community facilities

Spain provides €3.5 million for community facilities
BusinessWorld Online

SPAIN, through its Agency for International Development Cooperation, will contribute €3.5 million (about P215 million) to build schools, day care and barangay health centers in select provinces in Luzon and Mindanao, a statement of the Embassy of Spain in Manila read.

Specifically, the facilities will be built in Aurora in Central Luzon; in Albay, Masbate, Camarines Norte and Camarines Sur in Bicol; as well as in Dinagat, Agusan del Sur and Surigao del Sur in Caraga region, Mindanao.

This financial support will be implemented under the fifth and sixth phases of the “Empowerment and Prosperity of the Community Project,” in partnership with the Department of Social Welfare and Development.

The Spanish government last year provided a total of €33.7 million (about P2.19 billion) for various ODA projects nationwide, the statement read.