RH Bill in ARMM: No mother should be made to suffer

via Assemblywoman Samira Gutoc-Tomawis

The reproductive health bill is to be deliberated in the Assembly in ARMM this week. This is timely as we prepare for Ramadhan on Thursday (sighting of the Moon) because the health of half the population, women, is taken into consideration.

Women and men must fast during Ramadhan. This month displays the humanitarian side of the faith when we feel the plight of the poor in poverty. But it is also a time to highlight the health aspects in promoting a responsible lifestyle. The body is renewed and cleared of its toxins. Ain’t it during Ramadhan that the women who are pregnant, have mens, and are sick are exempted from the fast?

We are inspired to learn that Islam is actually a liberating force in advising women to prioritize their health in natural family planning.

This is also a good time to highlight the plight of women. While women hold half the skies, women also hold more than the sun, rain, its torrents and its thunders. While we celebrate the victory of many political rights for women, Muslim women are burdened several times over. A Moro woman is a mother, daughter, sister, teacher, cook, income-earner, house manager to a clan of tens of heads in just one house. When the men are away because of overseas work or worse, war, the women have to solve the myriad of problems confronting a clan which range from daily acts of giving to relatives in need (from death, marriage, hospitalization etc).

The Asian Development Bank (ADB) notes that ensuring access to high-quality basic social services (i.e., education and health) is a major challenge in the Philippines. More so, I note, in ARMM, where all the MOSTS are found, the poorest, farthest, thus voiceless and powerless. The ADB further notes, while there have been some notable accomplishments in the public health system (including the devolution of health services to the local level), major geographic inequities in access to health facilities and services still exist. Users of health services must largely pay expenses out of their own pockets, a system that particularly burdens the poor. The exodus of nurses and doctors abroad exacerbates problems in the health sector. One of the most pressing concerns for women is access to reproductive health care services. The maternal mortality rate of 162 per 100,000 live births means that an average of eight women die every day of pregnancy and childbirth-related causes.

The reproductive health bill will ensure that women have the needed health services made accessible to them in the poorest region of the country.