On May 28, the Women’s Global Network for Reproductive Rights (WGNRR) and the Philippine Safe Abortion Advocacy Network (PINSAN) led an online rally to amplify demands regarding women’s health amid the pandemic. Attended by a hundred women from various sectors, the rally is in line with the global commemoration of the International Day of Action for Women’s Health with the theme, “Women’s Health Matters: Ending the Inequality Pandemic and Ensuring Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights remain essential!”.
“COVID-19 has impacted us all, but we are not all impacted equally. It exposed and exacerbated long-standing social and gender inequalities that are manifested in many forms across contexts,” according to Marevic Parcon, Executive Director of WGNRR, in her opening remarks.
According to Parcon, this year’s campaign focuses on how the pandemic affects women, girls, and non-binary people’s health, especially those in the grassroots communities.
The rally featured interventions from leaders of various basic sector and community-based organizations, representing health workers, women human rights defenders, working women, rural women, indigenous women, urban poor women, and young people.
Flora Assidao-Santos from women’s group Oriang brought out concerns of urban poor women in accessing healthcare. According to Santos, poor women are not entertained in healthcare facilities because they are poor and are not prioritized for local interventions such as pre-natal and post-natal check-ups.
PINSAN spokesperson and EnGendeRights Executive Director, Atty. Clara Rita Padilla also criticized local government units for returning contraceptives to the national government with the “lame excuse” of lack of demand.
“Many poor women may want to use but cannot afford contraceptives. It is the job of the national and local governments to increase awareness on contraceptive information, supplies, and services to generate more demand for contraceptives,” Padilla said.
Poverty (kahirapan), along with fear (pangamba) and [worries over] their children’s futures (kinabukasan ng kabataan), was also cited by women from Pambansang Koalisyon ng Kababaihan sa Kanayuan (National Rural Women’s Congress) communities as the biggest barriers to women’s health. Meanwhile, women from Indigenous Peoples communities and those living in the Bangsamoro called for accessible public healthcare services as well as livelihood support.
Dr. Edelina Dela Paz of People’s Health Movement and Health Action Information Network noted how strict lockdown measures are gravely impacting people’s economic needs, as well as their health, as they risk their lives to go outside to work. She also decried militarized responses to the pandemic, citing contract tracing being done by the police instead of health workers. “[The pandemic is a] health issue, not a militarist issue,” she said.
“The online rally has really served to ground our demands this Day of Action for Women’s Health. We cannot view women’s health myopically. There needs to be structural change to address long-time neglect of women’s health and needs,” ED Parcon said in a comment after the forum.
Watch the May 28 Call for Action video summary at https://www.facebook.com/WGNRR/posts/5838228942868999