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Empowering Women and Girls Through Reproductive Health Services

Australia’s support helps Filipino women and girls make responsible choices, saving them from a life of poverty

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More women are empowered to access safe, effective, long-acting contraceptives through the Australian Embassy’s partnership with Roots of Health, a reproductive health organization in Palawan. Photo credit: Roots of Health

Mary* was 16 and in 11th grade when she first got pregnant. For her, having a baby meant putting her education on hold to care for her child.

Joana*, 25, had avoided the use of long-acting contraception because all she’d heard about them were the adverse side effects.

Elsa*, 29, and her partner struggle to make ends meet because of fewer job opportunities due to COVID-19.

These three women could have been any of the millions of women with unmet needs for family planning. They would have faced social stigma, misinformation about pregnancy and birth control, and lack access to facilities that offer free reproductive health services.

But thanks to Roots of Health (ROH), the three women are not part of that statistic.

Over the last twelve years, thousands of women in Palawan have been able to take charge of their reproductive lives through ROH’s work. ROH is a non-government organization that provides free, non-judgmental, and youth-friendly reproductive health services and education.

This year, with the support of Australia, more women in 10 municipalities all over Palawan can access their contraceptive methods of choice through ROH’s information and educational campaigns and contraceptive missions. These include community seminars that inform girls and women of their rights and responsibilities, especially regarding their sexual and reproductive health. After attending one of these seminars, they can make an informed decision on their contraceptive of choice and access them from ROH’s clinical staff.

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Women and girls learn about how their bodies work, how pregnancies happen, and how to prevent unplanned pregnancies through Roots of Health’s information and education campaigns in different municipalities and communities all over Palawan. Photo credit: Roots of Health

Normalising reproductive health care for women

Many Filipino women and girls remain apprehensive about birth control – these women are usually unaware that unplanned pregnancies are far riskier than taking birth control. As they don’t have access to health professionals who can give them accurate information, many rely on myths and misconceptions from family, friends, and religious groups.

Through the supportive, non-judgmental health care services and experts of ROH who provide accurate information, more and more women in Palawan have alleviated their fears and chosen to do what’s best for their health and their families’ futures.

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Despite initial apprehensions, women feel more encouraged to access their contraceptive of choice after attending family planning seminars and receiving counseling from Roots of Health’s clinical staff. Photo credit: Roots of Health

Second Chances for Teen Moms

Mary, now 18, has been using birth control shots since she gave birth to her first child. For Mary, avoiding pregnancy means she can focus on household work and steer clear of the potential financial burden of having another child while she’s still young. She and her partner, a 20-year-old construction worker, are now taking online classes to finish high school.

“I want to finish my education so that I can get a good job,” she shared. “Starting a family too soon is difficult, so I’m relieved to know I won’t have a second baby anytime soon.”

Better Lives for Children

Despite being a pill user for seven years, Joana has been apprehensive about long-acting birth control methods. She used to worry that these might fail or have negative side effects.

From the ROH seminars that Joana has attended, she learned that long-acting contraception is much more reliable and protective than only using condoms or pills though, so Joana felt she should try something more long-acting. She opted to get regular birth control injections every three months so that she can space her pregnancies.

“Women shouldn’t be afraid to use birth control; it can help us give our children a good life,” Joana told one of ROH’s nurses.

Family Planning as Self-Care

Elsa, 29, switched from taking regular birth control shots every three months, to an implant, which protects her from pregnancy for three years. She chose to switch to a long-acting birth control method to take one less worry off her plate and so she can take better care of herself as she and her husband raise their two kids.

“It’s always good to practice family planning so couples only have the number of children they can really take care of,” she said.

When women and girls like Mary, Joana, and Elsa can access birth control, they are more empowered to make informed decisions on their health and futures. Australia’s partnership with Roots of Health paves the way for women and girls to get out of poverty, avoid the health risks of early and unplanned pregnancies, and dream of better futures.

Australia supports the Philippines’ local community efforts towards poverty reduction and economic recovery. In the spirit of bayanihan, we respond to the needs of disadvantaged girls, women and the poorest, so that together, we can chart a course towards economic recovery.

*Not their real names

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