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COTABATO CITY - The reproductive health bill will be deliberated in the Assembly of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) on Monday, its principal author said.
"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," Assemblywoman Samira Gutoc-Tomawis, representing women in the Regional Legislative Assembly, told reporters Sunday.
"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," she said, urging her co-lawmakers to act on the bill swiftly.
During Ramadhan, she said, the body is renewed and cleared of its toxins, although women who are pregnant, have menstruation, 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," the regional solon from Lanao del Sur added.
She explained that the fasting month is a good time to highlight the plight of women and the reproductive health bill.
"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," she said.
She stressed that in the Muslim world, 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).
She said the Asian Development Bank (ADB) also noted that ensuring access to high-quality basic social services like education and health is a bit of a 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," she said.
She added that users of health services largely pay expenses out of their own pockets, a system that particularly burdens the poor, while the exodus of nurses and doctors abroad exacerbates problems in the health sector.
She explained that one of the most pressing concerns for women is access to reproductive health care services.
Gotuc-Tomawis stressed that 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.
She said the passage of the reproductive health bill will ensure that women have access to needed health services especially in the poorest region of the country.