After over 18 years of effort, the Philippines government passed a Reproductive Health Law in 2012 that guarantees universal access to contraception, fertility control, sexual education, and maternal health care. Currently, its implementation varies across the country. Even in cities like Manila, women face enormous barriers when seeking reproductive health services, and there is misinformation about contraceptive access. This situation is more pronounced in rural areas. It is still a taboo to talk about sex in this largely catholic nation, and access to information or services related to sexual health (e.g. contraceptives), especially for youth, are virtually non-existent. The inadequate access may contribute to the low improvement in the maternal mortality rate, the increase trend of adolescent birth rate over time, and the fact that two-third of new HIV infection cases are among the youth (15-24 age group). Teenage pregnancy affects around 6% of Filipino girls, which is the second highest rate in Southeast Asia. Among different regions in the Philippines, Palawan has one of the highest rates of teen pregnancies, and it still has the highest number of maternal deaths in MIMAROPA (Occidental and Oriental Mindoro, Marinduque, Romblon, and Palawan).
Roots of Health (ROH) was started in 2009 by Susan Evangelista and her daughter, Amina Evangelista Swanepoel, with the aim to teach sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) to marginalized communities and to college, high school and university students, thereby improving health and the general quality of life in Palawan. The mission of ROH is to foster self-reliant women, young people and families to lead healthy reproductive lives by providing health education (e.g. education sessions for youth), and health services (e.g. check-ups and delivery service). ROH empowers women and girls to secure their right to health and freedom from violence, and to support and protect the health and well-being of their families by reducing the incidence of maternal mortality, and delaying or preventing unwanted pregnancy. ROH works with some of the most underserved communities in Puerto Princesa where women and girls live in very marginalized circumstances, without access to any paid health services and difficult to access government services. Recognizing its outstanding work, ROH was amongst the 23 Stars Impact Award Winners in 2016. In 2017, ROH won the With and For Girls Award.
EMpower’s 6th grant will enable Roots of Health to continue providing sexual and reproductive health and rights education to young women and men aged 10 to 24 years old in schools. They will participate in a high impact programme with regular sessions in schools in Puerto Princesa, and a lighter touch programme in provincial schools across Palawan. The team is also provide training for teachers to carry out comprehensive sexual education with their students. Youth advocates (peer educators) will receive mentoring sessions and regular training to support their community outreach sessions. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the programme has pivoted a lot and will focus on outside-of-school activities on SRHR and online training sessions.
Primary Location: Puerto Princesa and Palawan, Philippines
Funded Since: 2013
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