Being positive: Getting over the odds to impart family planning information to men and women with disability

November 28, 2015. It was a big day for Rachel, Richel, Jessa, Belen and Lorna—members of Extending Hands group that was formed from the Participatory Action Groups (PAGS).  They were organizing a seminar on FP that would be attended by men and women with disability. With optimism and the thought that they were well prepared, the team looks forward to THE DAY.


A series of unfortunate events

On the morning of November 28, Rachel, Richel, Jessa, Belen and Lorna met around 7:00 in the morning to prepare for the seminar at 9:00am.  The venue was still locked and the team had to wait for the person who will bring the key. Minutes had passed but the person who holds the key did not arrive. Suddenly, it started to drizzle which turned into rain. By this time, the team started to panic. They called for help but it took a while before help came. It felt like they were in for disaster. As Rachel recalled, “walang susi, dumating na ang speaker pero wala pa ring susi para sa SK. Dumating si Lai, wala ring susi. Naghintay kami ng tatlong oras  [there was no key, the speaker arrived but no key yet  to open the Sk. Lai came but he don’t have the key. We waited for three hours].

Getting over the odds

No matter how stressful the situation had been, the team did not lose their focus. Against all odds, they took the plunge. Rachel formally opened the seminar with a warm hello and everything flowed smoothly. The team felt relieved when the seminar ended successfully.  Rachel admitted that because of the stressful situation that they faced she forgot the sequence of the program. “Minemorize ko ang pagkakasunod sunod ng activities pero nakalimutan ko”[ I memorized the sequence of the activities but I forgot everything ]. For the other team members, cooperation and good team work helped them to overcome the odds and made their activity successful.  As some of the members said, “Successful po kahit yung ibang members ay di naka-attend. Si Jocelyn dumating kahit hindi naman siya kagrupo.” [It was successful even if some team members were not able to attend. Jocelyn came though she is not a member of the team]. In addition, the team observed that their participants, especially persons with disabilities, were interested in the discussion. The participants asked questions on family planning methods, menstrual problems, pap smear and where to avail sexual and reproductive health services. Lorna quipped, “yung dating diniscuss sa family planning, mas luminaw.”


Bringing out the best in women

“Hindi naming akalain na kaya pala naming makapagconduct ng seminar” [we did not expect that we can conduct seminar], Rachel said. Rachel, Richel, Jessa, Belen, Lorna together with 11 women with disability had participated in the Participatory Action Group sessions conducted under the W-DARE project. Their participation in the PAG process helped them find their voice and reflect on their lives. They were able to establish friendship with fellow PAG participants. Some PAG participants realized that they needed to overcome their inferiority and start to  participate in community activities. The PAG process had challenged them to go beyond their disability and aspire for a better situation for themselves and for their fellow women with disability.


The team together with their personal assistants, PAG facilitators and W-DARE team members.

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Interview with Joy Garcia, president of W-DARE partner organisation WOWLEAP and Sectoral Representative for the disability sector to the Philippines National Anti-Poverty Commission (NAPC)

Today’s post is provided by Liz Gill-Atkinson, a Research Assistant on the W-DARE program. The post features an interview with Joy Garcia, president of W-DARE project partner WOWLEAP, a national organisation of women with disability in the Philippines, about her appointment earlier this year to the Philippines National Anti-Poverty Commission (NAPC). The W-DARE team congratulate Joy on this achievement! 

So Joy, tell me about your recent appointment to the Philippines National Anti-Poverty Commission (NAPC)?

Joy – I was appointed as the Sectoral Representative for the disability sector to the National Anti-Poverty Commission. There are three nominees and luckily I was chosen as a representative by the President of the Philippines. It is a three year position and we have priority agendas. The priority agenda for the first year that we are thinking about and planning is looking towards the direction of the PDAO – the Persons with Disability Affairs Office. Every LGU (local government unit) should have a PDAO that will handle specifically and exclusively the affairs of persons with disabilities.

Another key issue is livelihoods, because the purpose of the Commission is really to eliminate poverty. Executive order 417 outlines economic empowerment for persons with disabilities. We want to promote it more so that 10% of the procurement from the government will come from persons with disability. Because whilst there is a law, implementation is yet to be fully realised.

The third issue of course is social protection, addressing social concerns of persons with disability, including health programs. I think that My involvement in the W-DARE research could help me with that because I have more knowledge about the access to basic services in the local communities, including sexual and reproductive health, which is not really so great in many regions. And of course education, health education and the disability cost. Disability cost meaning that if you are a person with a disability then there is an additional cost involved when you want to access livelihood and other employment opportunities.

Liz – and so is this the first time that there has been a Sectoral Representative for the disability sector on the commission?

Joy – No, it is an ongoing position. There has always been a person with a disability on the Commission. Previously they were called commissioners and now we are called ‘Sectoral Representatives’.

Liz – so what difference this make to you, being on the commission? Why is it important?

Joy – It is important to me on a broader scope because I can advocate more on a national level. Although TWH (Tahanang Walang Hagdanan, Inc.) is already very famous and WOWLEAP (Women with Disability Leap to Social and Economic Progress) also is a national organisation, this time I will be working at a policy level. Although we are doing some policy development with TWH and WOWLEAP it is but it is not our centerpiece. It is more on an organisational level which includes all the different regions. But this (the Anti-poverty commission) is thinking on a broader scope, not on just an organisational level.  With this there is the CM, we call it a CM, the council members. There are 23 council members and they help us to plan out the policy, the legislations to then help us to fast track them to become laws. Also there are some amendments that we have to propose.

Liz – so what do you hope to/would like to achieve in this position?

Joy – Of course the position is short term, it is only three years, and so I would like to do it step by step and of course by milestone. Like right now there is a planned milestone for this year which is getting a sponsor or a champion for policy developments or amendments to laws that we want pass, so we need a senator or a congressman. So those are the limits on we have to do. Another priority agenda item is to set up or replicate a livelihood study like TWH in three regions, including Cagayan de Oro and Iloilo and the other one is yet to be announced. But this first year is preparation only and of course setting up the centers is very difficult. . We are working together with the local government and international organisations as we don’t want our commission to stand alone. In my mind we need to collaborate with others so that we can work on a broader scope.  Like I have already talked to the NCDA (National Council on Disability Affairs) about working together on the regional council on disability affairs, which is under NCDA, and then we have asked some INGOs (international non-government organisations) if they are able to help us out on the research and development and policy development side of it.

In my mind we cannot see a change unless we work together as one, with unity. Because there is a lot of talk about helping out, and also divisions of principles, and that is natural, but if more will work together with you, you can achieve more. That is my personal opinion.

Liz – thanks very much for speaking with me today Joy and all the best with the appointment.

Joy Garcia facilitating at the W-DARE Disability and  Gender Sensitisation workshop, Ligao City, January 2015.

Joy Garcia facilitating at the W-DARE Disability and Gender Sensitisation workshop, Ligao City, January 2015.

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W-DARE PAG facilitators involvement in the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) Philippines post – disability inclusive development training

Today’s post from Carminda Licerio, a women with a disability who has been involved with the W-DARE program since phase 1. Carminda writes about her experience at the recent DFAT Disability Inclusive Development Training in Manila and reflects on some of her experience of involvement in W-DARE to date, including qualitative data collection and analysis and co-facilitating a participatory action group (PAG) for women with mobility impairments. 

Being involved in the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) Philippines Post Disability Inclusive Development Training held on July 27, 2015 at the Australian Embassy, Makati, was such a wonderful experience for me. Though I had only a short time, I still had the chance to share the process of doing qualitative interviews with women and girls with mobility impairment and shared the story of one of my interviewees who experienced violence and sexual abuse. I thought being a qualitative interviewer is just like being an ordinary researcher, though we had lots of trainings done before they  were only for RAD, so I thought it’s (qualitative interviews) are just as easy as RAD. But when I’ve done my first interview I find the research more challenging. Hearing different experiences and stories of a woman and girls with disabilities inspired me and has improved me a lot.

Why I was inspired is because despite of the bad I’ve heard that happened to the interviewees, they still go on with their lives. Why it made me improved is because I never thought I could do the qualitative interview as the project needed. I felt nervous and worried before starting the interview because I wasn’t sure if my interviewees would agree or allow me to have an interview with them especially in relation to SRH, because most of them don’t even know about SRH.

But then I was happy and proud that I did the qualitative interviews the best that I could. If given the chance or if there is another opportunity, I want this research to be continued. I remember one of my interviewees mentioned about another woman with disability who also experienced a type of sexual abuse, but never told anyone except her trusted friends, because this woman doesn’t want to be embarrassed, until she decided to have a husband just to escape to her bad experiences. This girl is a fully amputated both arms and legs.

Carminda Licerio at a PAG session, July 2015, Quezon City.

Carminda Licerio at a PAG session, July 2015, Quezon City.

I am glad to be again a part of the Year 2 of the W-DARE project which involves the PAG (participatory action group). And being one of the PAG Facilitators is such a privilege for me, though it was another challenge because this is my first time handling people with mobility impairment with severe cases like cerebral palsy. Though I had talked to some women with the same case, it’s not like the way I’m doing in PAG.

In PAG I need to talk to them in language that they may easily understand because most of our participants in PAG have low levels of education. We also need to consider their cases in every session and topics to discuss. We need to listen very carefully in one of them because in her case she cannot speak clearly as what other’s does. This participant also was given a new wheelchair sponsored by Tahanang Walang Hagdanan.

One of our participants, who is a born again Christian, had never discussed sexuality before, because in her religion they don’t believe in same sex relationships. But this participant was inspired by the session and the project because she said that the session gave her more knowledge and the facilitators gave her courage to pursue her study again, and now she already enrolled in the Alternative Learning System to finish her high school, She said that when she saw the facilitators sitting on a wheelchair like her she was amazed and she never thought that a person with disabilities can do such things. Because this girl had never been able to go outside their home aside from going to church.

In my thoughts, this kind of action research project should be done in the whole country  so that the government will know the real situation of women with disabilities in relation to SRH and also their needs.

Carminda Licerio and participants during a PAG session, May 2015, Quezon City.

Carminda Licerio and participants during a PAG session, May 2015, Quezon City.

A number of the other W-DARE PAG facilitators also had such a great experience in participating in the DFAT Philippines Post training. Though we only had a short time to speak, as one of the panelist I had a chance to share my experience being a qualitative researcher for the W-DARE project. Whilst  I have  had some  experience in interviewing lots of PWDs  in relation to my employment, W-DARE This was my first time being a part of qualitative research. It’s been a pleasure for me sharing the process of doing the qualitative interview of women and girls with disabilities with mobility impairment, particularly sharing the story of one of my interviewees who experienced violence and sexual abuse.

Weng Rivera is a Deaf woman working with the Deaf participants of PAG with Rack Corpus. They both also presented during the DFAT training. Weng said it was a pleasure to be part of the training to be able to share her experience of being Deaf in the Philippines during the morning panel. Weng also shared her experience working with survivors and victims, especially Deaf women when she used with power point presentation. Highlighting that the situation of Filipino Deaf women had in terms of violence and abuse, added  to the oppression and marginalization, further worsening their “voicelessness”.

Many Deaf women were keen to join the PAG, more than could be accommodated. Ms Rack shared how impressed she was because the participants had learnt about their choices and rights through the  UNCRP, and that they could become independent. They emphasized even though they knew their best, to facilitate, they continue and repeat in each session so deaf women participants would not forget what they had learnt. And someday, they will become a leader to share with other deaf women in the communities.

Weng also was part of the qualitative interviews with other women who are Deaf, She contributed qualitative data analysis, attended trainings, seminars and project partner and stakeholder meetings.

Janine Cruzet was also one of the panelist, and is a co-facilitator of the PAG team for women with vision impairment. Janine said, it was also a nice and memorable experience for her to be on the panel as it gave her the chance to share with the group about her experience in the PAG sessions and what was the PAG’s impact in her life, from being one of the facilitators and also a documenter. She also explained about what the PAG intervention is. She mentioned that PAG stands for Participatory Action Group that aims to improve understanding of sexual and reproductive health and to develop individual or collective action plan on promoting SRH for women with disabilities and access the services provided by the government

Krissy Bisda also in the VI PAG team was there for the morning session, she mentioned about Nanay Rogelia, the grandmother/guardian of one of the participants from the Ortho team. Nanay Rogelia has two grandchildren who have a disability, one has Down syndrome and the other one has cerebral palsy. Both are cousins and were left abandoned by their parents. According to Krissy, Nanay Rogelia mentioned her sacrifices in taking care of her two grandchildren because she is old and she was worried about the future of the two. She said that hopefully her grandchildren could have some support or even a job that fits to them to sustain their everyday needs. Krissy also shared her happy experience being one of the panelist since in the morning session to talk about the experiences of the persons with disabilities and informed them especially about the blind. She was very happy that DFAT has a kind of program like this so that the employees of the embassy might get to learn to do some programs that are  inclusive for people with disability, and they might consult us and to encourage them that we should be included in the planning for the effectiveness of their programs. She was also proud of sharing about the findings of our project that we are telling the truth because we have the evidence and complete details, of course with the support of other organizations especially the WDARE project.

Krissy also mentioned that this kind of project must be spread not only in the embassy, but also in our government and others, to promote disability inclusion, and make equality stronger. And hopefully this program won’t stop.

Aya Sunit also in Krissy’s team said it was such a short experience for her but unforgettable. She was tasked to share a short background data about their Visually Impaired participants in PAG Session, and some of the daily challenges that the participants have to go through. She was grateful since she really wants to tell everyone the status of their participants, and how they were changed and empowered by the lessons they have learned in their sessions. She also hopes that she had clearly conveyed the message that those individuals were hungry for formal knowledge and information and more than willing to learn with a little support coming from their team.

W-DARE team members Rowena Riviera, Rack Corpuz, Carmind Licerio, Krissy Bisda, Aya Tiongco-Sunit and Janine Cruzet facilitating a session during the DFAT workshop, July 2015, Manila.

W-DARE team members Rowena Riviera, Rack Corpuz, Carmind Licerio, Krissy Bisda, Aya Tiongco-Sunit and Janine Cruzet facilitating a session during the DFAT workshop, July 2015, Manila.

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W-DARE Blog – The PAG intervention – taking participatory action on sexual and reproductive health (SRH) for women with disability – Ligao, 8th of July 2015

Today’s post is written by Alex Devine, a W-DARE Co-investigator from the University of Melbourne. Alex writes about her recent trip to the Philippines in July 2015, working with the W-DARE PAG Coordinator, Ms Rak Ignacio, to support the PAG interventions. 

We are just over half way through the W-DARE Participatory Action Group (PAG) intervention. So it has been a timely opportunity to visit Quezon City and Ligao City and see what an incredible job the PAG facilitators have been doing. Together with the local W-DARE team, the facilitators have been working with each of the groups to improve knowledge and access to sexual and reproductive health (SRH) for women with disability. The PAG intervention has involved the development of six different peer facilitated groups of women with disability and a parent group, coming together every two weeks to learn about topics related to disability and SRH. Topics to date have included ‘what is disability’, ‘the rights of people with disability’, ‘what is SRH’, ‘family planning’, and ‘HIV and other STIs’. Future topics will explore ‘prevention of violence’, ‘positive futures’ and ‘developing action plans to improve access to SRH’. It is hoped the final sessions will help the groups promote and sustain individual or collective action on promoting SRH for women with disability. Each group has really taken ownership of the process and individualized the sessions to reflect the context and experiences of the women in their groups.

As I write, we are sitting in on session six focusing on ‘HIV and other STIs’ of the Ligao City PAGs – Team Tibay at Lakas ng Kababaihan (inner strength of women), Team Sisters, and Team Happy.  Each session usually starts with the facilitators conducting an ice-breaker activity, and then a warm-up activity to help the women learn more about themselves and each other. The groups then re-cap what they have learnt in the previous sessions through a creative activity developed by the facilitators.

The Ligao City PAG facilitators; Celinia Tayoyo, Juliet Llorin and Joy Bien, with the W-DARE PAG Coordinator, Rak Ignacio

The Ligao City PAG facilitators; Celinia Tayoyo, Juliet Llorin and Joy Bien, with the W-DARE PAG Coordinator, Rak Ignacio

For session six, the PAGs have been supported by a resource person with expertise in HIV, STI’s and sexual health. In Quezon City, the group for women with vision impairment (aka Sexy Warriors) and the group for women who are Deaf or hard of hearing, went to the office of W-DARE partners, the Likhaan Center for Women’s Health. At Likhaan, Arnold Vega and his team facilitated a very interactive and informative session for the groups. In Ligao, Dr Jose Relacion and his colleague from the City Health Office were well received by the PAG participants who were very grateful for all the knowledge gained through the presentations.

A participant with a visual impairment from Quezon City reads a braille translation of a resource on HIV and AIDS in Session 6.

A participant with a visual impairment from Quezon City reads a braille translation of a resource on HIV and AIDS in Session 6.

Spending time with the PAG facilitators and the broader W-DARE team has allowed us all to reflect on the PAG process to date. On talking with the facilitators, it has been great to hear about what has been working well, and what have been some of the more challenging aspects of the process. The women have clearly valued the support of the W-DARE PAG Coordinator Ms Rak Ignacio. Rak has been mentoring the facilitators around the content of the sessions, but also supporting them in their challenging roles as facilitators. Also providing invaluable support to the PAG process are Judith Marbella-Wanasen and Jezabel De Mesa in Ligao, and Mona Pindog, Cathy Dacillo-Domingo and Lyndia Navarro at De La Salle, as well as the broader W-DARE team. Let’s not forget Rocky Mahilum and his role in logistics, and Lai Salcedo, the president of the PWD Ligao Disabled Persons Organisation and chef de cuisine of Ligao!

The PAG process is not without its challenges. For some of the facilitators, this is their first time facilitating a group, and this has required them to overcome shyness and anxiety of presenting in front of a group, with really very little training or time for preparation before the PAG process began. Although watching them today, it is clear they have evolved confidently and engagingly into their roles. Whilst the women in each group have disability in common, or for the parent group, a child with disability; individual experience of disability is incredibly diverse and is layered with a person’s other life experiences and background. Bridging these differences and helping each group to develop common understanding amongst participants and nurture social connectedness between the women, has often required facilitators to work well outside of their comfort zone.

A poster outlining the ground rules for a PAG in Quezon City.

A poster outlining the ground rules for a PAG in Quezon City.

Another challenge has been learning how best to support the participants, some of whom are going through very difficult life circumstances related to disability, family relationships and in some circumstances, experience of violence and abuse. This is also where the importance of the PAG coordinator and the broader W-DARE team has been critical. Despite these challenges, the facilitators spoke not only of increased confidence and knowledge of SRH, but also that the PAG process has helped them to develop strategies for coping with stress which has also had a positive effect on their relationships.

Each session requires meticulous logistics and careful navigation through windy and narrow Barangay roads, as well as the support of families in helping participants attend the session, either through taking care of children whilst their mothers attend the session, or making the sometimes long journey to the session with the women. Whilst visiting Ligao City, we made a visit to the homes of a few of our participants to talk with them about how they are finding being involved in the PAGs. The women we spoke with were all very positive about their PAG experience, particularly about the opportunity to come together with other women that the PAG sessions provide. One family had returned early from their holiday so their daughter could attend the PAG session the following day. Knowledge learnt in the PAG sessions has also supported women to access services, not only in terms of SRH, but also in terms of services to support their other needs, such as access to knowledge on available services such as assistive devices and social protection.

Ligao City PAG facilitators and participants, W-DARE PAG Coordinator Rag Ignacio and Liz Gill-Atkinson, a W-DARE team member from the University of Melbourne.

Ligao City PAG facilitators and participants, W-DARE PAG Coordinator Rag Ignacio and Liz Gill-Atkinson, a W-DARE team member from the University of Melbourne.

It will be great to follow the PAG journey over the coming months and see where each group takes their acquired knowledge and new social networks, and what each woman can do to continue to promote their own SRH, and collectively what they can do to promote the SRH of other women with disability in the Philippines.

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A tribute to Ms Liza Presnillo

Today’s post comes from Ma. Rowena Riviera (Weng), a women who is Deaf who has been involved with W-DARE since the start of Phase 1.

In her role on the W-DARE project, Weng has conducted qualitative interviews with other women who are Deaf, contributed to qualitative data analysis, attended trainings, seminars and project partner and stakeholder meetings, and is now co-facilitating a Participatory Action Group (PAG) with Ma. Rack Corpus for women who are Deaf in Quezon City, Manila.

In this post, accessible through the link to Weng’s blog (below), Weng pays tribute to Ms Liza Presnillo, a sign language interpreter and advocate for the Filipino Deaf community with whom she worked closely over a period of ten years (including on W-DARE research activities). Liza passed away on April 8 2015.

The W-DARE team would like to acknowledge Liza’s contribution to the project, as a highly valued interpreter who supported our qualitative data collection and analysis, as a knowledgeable key informant, and a friend. Her passing is a huge loss to the Filipino Deaf community and for all working towards equality of rights and opportunities for people with disability in the Philippines.

Weng is a well known advocate for the Deaf community in the Philippines. Please visit other posts in her blog for more information about her work and issues facing the Deaf community in the Philippines.

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Launch of the W-DARE Community Report

The W-DARE team is proud to share the following report: “Women with Disability taking Action on REproductive and sexual health (W-DARE) – A summary of initial findings and pilot interventions”.  

A description of the report from the Executive Summary is below:

“This report summarises initial findings of a disability-inclusive, participatory action research project conducted in Quezon City in Metro Manila and Ligao City in Albay province, involving women with disability and SRH service providers across all stages of the research. Researchers in the Philippines and Australia are leading the project, in partnership with Philippines-based DPOs, SRH providers and other academic institutions.

The international collaboration has strengthened the rigor of the research, and ensured that our approach is informed by local and international expertise on gender, disability, SRH and protection from violence. Our local partners and advisory group have ensured that the research has remained culturally and contextually appropriate for the Philippines. The local women with disability and the DPOs involved in W-DARE have provided valuable insights, expertise, networks and experience throughout.

Our initial findings highlight the considerable challenges faced by women and girls with disability to maintain their SRH, including barriers to accessing SRH information and services, denial of women’s capacity and rights to marriage and motherhood, and high rates of violence and abuse of women and girls with disability. Families of women with disability can play a key role in facilitating positive SRH outcomes for women with disability, but where there is discrimination and abuse can also undermine the SRH of women with disability. Families often act as ‘gatekeepers’ to community for women with disability, controlling access to the wider world, including relevant health and support services. Pervasive and underlying prejudice and discrimination towards women with disability has a considerable negative impact on the

SRH of women with disability, informing the behaviour and attitudes of SRH service providers, families, partners and carers of women with disability, and members of the community towards the SRH of women with disability. W-DARE has begun implementing a range of interventions, targeting barriers to SRH information and services, including services providing protection from violence, for women with disability.

Evaluation of these initiatives will inform the development of disability-inclusive, gender-sensitive guidelines for the provision of SRH services to women with disability in the Philippines, and will have relevance to the wider health sector, and to other settings in the Asia Pacific region.”

You can view and download the report from the following link: W-DARE report – A summary of initial findings and pilot interventions

W-DARE is led by researchers from the Melbourne School of Population and Global Health (the Nossal Institute for Global Health and the Centre for Health Equity) at the University of Melbourne and researchers the Social Development Research Center at De La Salle University, Manila. Project partners work in the disability, SRH, and gender fields, and include the DPOs WOWLEAP and PARE, the non-government SRH service provider Likhaan Center for Women’s Health, and the Center for Women’s Studies (CWS) at the University of the Philippines.

The W-DARE research team and partner organisations would like to thank the Local Government Units of Quezon City and Ligao City who have provided outstanding support which we gratefully acknowledge. We would also like to thank our Advisory Group in the Philippines and our international Advisory Group for the considerable expertise that they have contributed to the project.

Finally, we would like to express our enormous gratitude to the women and girls with disability, and the thousands of other individuals, that participated in this research. Our thanks also go to the organisations and institutions that made this possible. This research is a direct result of your generosity and commitment to improving the sexual and reproductive health of women and girls with disabilities in your communities.

Salamat po!

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Disability and Gender Sensitization workshops and Health Center Walk-Through Assessments: Ligao City and Quezon City

This post comes from Mona Pindog, a Research Assistant on the W-DARE Program based at the Social Development Research Centre at De La Salle University in Manila. In this post, Mona provides an update on the implementation of recent supply-side interventions, which aim to address barriers to access of SRH services for women with disability in Quezon City and Ligao City.

Earlier this year, W-DARE kicked off activities with two Disability and Gender Sensitization workshops held in Ligao City and Quezon City.  The aim of these workshops was to improve understanding and awareness of gender-sensitive, disability inclusive health service provision for women with disabilities, and provide guidance around how this can be achieved, through visiting and auditing selected ‘Model’ health facilities. Participants at the workshop in Legazpi City held from 7th to 10th January included representatives from the Ligao City Health Department, Ligao City Social Welfare Department, Ligao City Planning Department, the Paulba Barangay Captain and her Barangay Councilor on Committee of Health, as well as representatives from the Paulba Persons with Disability Federation, the Provincial Health Office, and the Simon of Cyrene Community Rehabilitation and Development Foundation Inc., Also in attendance were the dean of Bicol University College of Medicine, and the Chief Medical Officer of Bicol Regional Training and Teaching Hospital as well as the Public Health Department head. Dr. Jesusa Marco, Jerome Zayas, and Jocelyn Garcia of WOWLEAP, a W-DARE project partner, facilitated the workshop.

Participants at the Gender and Disability Sensitisation workshop in Legazpi City, 7th to 10th January 2015.

Participants at the Gender and Disability Sensitisation workshop in Legazpi City, 7th to 10th January 2015.

The second Disability and Gender Sensitization Workshop was held from the 4th to 6th of February in Quezon City. Participants included representatives from the Quezon City Health Department and Social Services Development Department, Quezon City Gender and Development Resource Coordinating Office, Quezon City Protection Center, the Persons with Disability Affairs Office (PDAO), Quezon City PWD Federation and Barangay Batasan Hills.  Ms. Pam Averion-Godoy and Ms. Rio Otara of UNFPA and Ms. Prescilla Cuevas of the Department Of Health (DOH) were also in attendance. Dr. Carol Sobritchea from the University of the Philippines Center for Women Studies (CWS), also a W-DARE project partner, facilitated the Gender and Violence Against Women (VAW) aspects of the workshop.

Participants at the Gender and Disability Sensitisation workshop Quezon City, 4th to 6th February 2015.

Participants at the Gender and Disability Sensitisation workshop Quezon City, 4th to 6th February 2015.

In addition to discussions on gender and disability inclusion, participants at each workshop visited proposed model health facilities: the Paulba BEMONC in Ligao City and the Batasan Hills Super Health Center in District II of Quezon City. The purpose of these visits was for workshop participants to assess the features and capacity of each facility to provide disability inclusive health, and in particular sexual and reproductive health, information and services to women and girls with disability. A matrix which allowed participants to assess accessibility for persons with disability in relation to travelling to the service, the service entrance, the building logistics and built environment, health and SRH information and emergency evacuation procedures was provided as a guide.

Walk through assessment of Batasan Hills Super Health Center.

Walk through assessment of Batasan Hills Super Health Center.

During the Quezon City walk-through, participants were also encouraged to adopt a ‘gender lens’ and to consider accessibility for, and inclusion of, women, the elderly, and children in health service provision and access. As a result of the walk-through visits, workshop participants identified a range of issues and considerations relating to the accessibility of the model facilities for women with disabilities. Some of the key issues related to understaffing, over-demand of services, and inaccessible information for persons with vision impairments, and those who are deaf or hard of hearing. Physical barriers were also discussed and included cramped waiting areas, small numbers of toilets, a lack of accessible toilets for women with disability and issues accessing the location of services (such as stairs but no ramps or elevators to facilitate access for wheelchair users).  Some of the recommendations suggested for overcoming these barriers included making changes to the built environment such as the inclusion of ramps, ensuring signs and information is presented in accessible formats (including Braille and large print). Other recommendations focused on building the capacity of staff to assess the needs of women with disabilities, and provide accessible and inclusive health information and services.

An elderly patient going down stairs at a health service.

An elderly patient going down stairs at a health service.

Participants reported several ‘lessons learnt’ as a result of their involvement in the sensitisation workshop and walk-through of the model facilities. Whilst participants expressed disappointment about what they observed in relation to barriers to accessibility for people with disability, they reported an increased understanding of why people with disabilities (and women with disabilities in particular) are not accessing the free health services available. Participants also learnt to discern whether elements of their environments are hindering or facilitating the accessibility of persons with disabilities.

Workshop participants visiting the Paulba BEMONC health centre.

Workshop participants visiting the Paulba BEMONC health centre.

Findings from the walk-through visit and the accessibility audit have informed the development of other W-DARE interventions, including the development of a manual for disability inclusive health services and information.

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