Justin’s love for women

Philippine Daily Inquirer - - OPINION - RINA JIMENEZ-DAVID

Jeany Gon­zaga, 28, is due to de­liver this month. Dur­ing the hours she waited, along with other moth­ers, for the visit of Cana­dian PrimeMin­is­ter Justin Trudeau, she re­ported feel­ing ab­dom­i­nal cramps. “We thought she was start­ing her la­bor,” said Dr. Ju­nice Mel­gar, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of Likhaan, the non­govern­ment or­ga­ni­za­tion (NGO) that set up and main­tains the women’s clinic on Zaragosa Street, Tondo. “But,” added Ju­nice, “it turns out she was just very ex­cited.”

And who would not be? Trudeau was ev­ery­thing as ad­ver­tised—tall, charm­ing, vis­i­bly ex­cited at meet­ing the women and staff of the clinic. The rea­son he was vis­it­ing is that the Likhaan Women’s Health Cen­ter is funded by Global Af­fairs Canada, the Cana­dian gov­ern­ment’s international de­vel­op­ment arm, through the NGOIn­ter Pares.

The meet and greet was to take place in front of the clinic, while Trudeau was to tour the fa­cil­i­ties es­corted only by Mel­gar with a few staff to ex­plain the var­i­ous ser­vices and equip­ment, most of which were do­nated by the Cana­dian gov­ern­ment.

The moth­ers waited in line, cradling their ba­bies. In or­der of their meet­ing with the prime min­is­ter, they were: Glenda Lorenzo, 23, who had de­liv­ered her baby (a large-eyed girl with win­ning dim­ples) at the clinic last June; Hazel Borja, 36, cradling her tiny eighth baby, whom Trudeau looked closely at, ask­ing con­cerned ques­tions; Jeany; and Cherry Mae Idlisan, 21, who had de­liv­ered her third baby.

Daisy An­des, 28, de­liv­ered her sec­ond baby in June; while Veronica Centi­naje, 36, de­liv­ered her fourth baby on Oct. 12. Veronica is also a vol­un­teer com­mu­nity health pro­moter, in­form­ing her neigh­bors about the ser­vices of­fered (for free) at the clinic and co­or­di­nat­ing their check­ups.


Some 900 women reg­u­larly visit the Likhaan clinic, which opened last March, mainly for fam­ily plan­ning, Mel­gar said. An ac­tivist since her UP Col­lege of Medicine days, Mel­gar co­founded Likhaan in 1995 to­gether with Dr. Sylvia Estrada Claudio, whowas re­cently named dean of the UP Col­lege of So­cial Work and Com­mu­nity De­vel­op­ment. (Dis­clo­sure, I sit on the board of trustees of Likhaan.)

The clinic pro­vided birthing ser­vices only last May since PhilHealth took a long time grant­ing them ac­cred­i­ta­tion. The gov­ern­ment health in­sur­ance provider cov­ers all ex­penses re­lated to pre­na­tal care and de­liv­ery, plus post­par­tum fam­ily plan­ning. A to­tal of 110 women re­ceived pre­na­tal care so far, while 12 de­liv­ered at the clinic. A to­tal of 63 pa­tients were re­ferred to hos­pi­tals as per PhilHealth’s re­quire­ments. The clin-

ic’s am­bu­lance and a mid­wife ac­com­pany the moth­ers about to give birth.

———— Clin­ics such as those man­aged by Likhaan (an­other part­ner is Doc­tors With­out Bor­ders, which fund even big­ger oper­a­tions in other clin­ics) are in­creas­ingly fill­ing in for the lack of ser­vices and com­modi­ties of gov­ern­ment health cen­ters.

A study com­mis­sioned by the European Union in three ur­ban poor ar­eas showed that in 2012, phar­ma­cies were the top source of con­tra­cep­tives at 38.7 per­cent, fol­lowed by gov­ern­ment hos­pi­tals at 33.3 per­cent, Likhaan at 18 per­cent, and barangay health cen­ters (BHCs) at 8 per­cent. Three years later, in 2015, “there oc­curred a dra­matic shift,” with Likhaan lead­ing the pack at 41.3 per­cent, fol­lowed by gov­ern­ment hos­pi­tals at 33 per­cent, phar­ma­cies (pri­vate sec­tor) at 16.8 per­cent and BHCs at 6 per­cent.

This is why Trudeau’s visit to the Zaragosa clinic was no­table not just for the “kilig fac­tor” brought about by his per­sonal pres­ence, but also for the state­ment im­plicit in his in­ter­est in and in­volve­ment with the re­pro­duc­tive health and rights of Filipino women. While so­cial me­dia went all agog over his visit to Jol­libee, by drop­ping by the Likhaan clinic as soon as he landed, he showed just how im­por­tant it is to look af­ter the wel­fare of women and chil­dren. Af­ter all, it’s been said, a coun­try’s worth is ul­ti­mately judged by how it looks af­ter the health, rights and wel­fare of its most help­less and least pow­er­ful cit­i­zens. The ba­bies in the arms of their moth­ers may not re­mem­ber any­thing from their star­ring role in Trudeau’s visit, but surely their fu­ture will be col­ored by the events of that day.

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