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Saturday, September 29, 2007

STAND UP 2007 - The UN Millenium Campaign

It's STAND UP / TUMAYO TAYO time once more in October. This time, there's a twist. The campaign this year is STAND UP / SPEAK OUT, not only a mobilization of warm bodies for another Guinness Book World Record-setting, but also as part of a year-long advocacy campaign on four UN Priority Issues:

** MDGs least likely to be attained - MDG 1 (extreme poverty and hunger), 2 (achieving universal primary education), 5 (reducing maternal mortality, including the target on 100% access to RH by 2015) and 7 (ensuring environmental stability)
** Population Management
** Peace and Development (especially in Mindanao)
** Human Rights

In this context, the TUMAYO TAYO event serves as the kick-off or launch event for the longer term advocacy campaign. The time span for the STAND UP moments for the Guinness Record will take place starting 5 am, 17 October to 5 am, 18 October (Philippine Time). However, we will just put in all our mobilizations and STAND UP moments from 5 am, to 9 pm on October 17.

The different UN agencies in the Advocacy TWG (chaired by UNFPA's Country Representative Ms. Suneeta Mukherjee) are still crafting the details of the Central Event on October 17, but thus far, these are the outputs that are expected of us all:

1. The largest number we can mobilize on October 17;
2. Most important are the follow through outputs and activities from ourselves and our partners on the ground. These include:

-- Law, ordinances, resolutions related to the MDGs, or the other priority issues mentioned above passed by our LGU partners;
-- Budgetary allocations on the same;
-- Formation of networks of various stakeholders at our respective levels, which will carry on the advocacy work beyond October 15 ;

Like last year, let's ensure a repeat of UNFPA's and partners' active participation. We were one of the most creative, most active backbones of the TUMAYO TAYO campaign in 2006. Thank You very much!

From: Dino Subingsubing, UNFPA Information Officer

WHO alarmed at RP's pregnancy-related deaths

by Ferdinand Fabella / Manila Standard Today / 25 September

The World Health Organization bared that pregnancy-related and neonatal deaths in the Philippines remained high despite various government health programs.

WHO medical officer Dr. Howard Sobel said about 529,000 women die from birth-related causes, leaving one million children motherless and vulnerable.

"In the Philippines, about 10 mothers a day die in childbirth, with almost 30 very young children being orphaned or having difficulty surviving every day. In fact, the country is one of the 42 countries that accounted for 95 percent of global under-five mortality," he said.

Sobel said that 50 percent of infants die in the first two days of life, due to "non-skilled attended births" and by delays in the start of breastfeeding among mothers.

He also said that four out of five maternal deaths are the direct result of obstetric complications making maternal mortality highest during labor and the two days following birth.

More than 10 million women suffer severe or long-lasting illnesses or disabilities, from obstetric fistula to infertility, depression and impoverishment caused by complications of pregnancy or childbirth.

Of which, most are girls aged 15 to 20, with complications of pregnancy or childbearing representing theleading cause of mortality.

"Hypertensive disorders, followed by postpartum hemorrhage and pregnancy with abortive outcomes are the top causes of maternal death in the Philippines," Sobel said.

The WHO representative said they are doing their best to help in the implementation and policy making with the government to address the matter and give grant or donation to specific maternal health programs to the private sector.

ECOP, for its part, launched yesterday the Recognition for Best Workplace Reproductive Health Policies and Programs in partnership with the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

The program intends to give women workers incentives and other amenities to make them more productive and healthy, ECOP Director General Vicente Leogardo, Jr., said.

He said various employers wanted to confront the problem on reproductive health because its scope is national and complex in nature, thus they have to come up with doable solutions that can be implemented at the workplace.

Leogardo said ECOP, in partnership with the United Nations Population Fund, has been able to engage 20 subscriber-companies to implement an in-plant reproductive health program and services.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Between Poverty and Paradise

Not much news I felt like blogging but I got this email which I think is worth "blogging" about.

Read on...

Between Poverty and Paradise
by Paolo P. Mangahas

LAST night, I had dinner with a German friend to talk about her planned trip to the Philippines . She had just completed an internship program in one of the law firms here in Malaysia and wanted to take a short holiday in a nearby country before heading off to Australia to finish her studies. She wanted to know more about the Philippines and asked me for tips on making the most of the two-and-a-half weeks that she had allotted for this vacation.

We planned her trip between bites, armed only with a faded map of the Philippines that we had downloaded from the Internet. My goal was to identify all the "must-see" places in the country (her criteria being beaches and volcanoes), plot them according
to distance and flight routes, and then cram them all in 17 days.

A tall order indeed, especially for someone like me who has never had a sense of direction even in my own neighborhood. For the life of me, I could not spot where Boracay was on her map. So I took the easy way out and told her to go to Palawan instead.

I carried on with the task like a diligent student trying to remember my geography, starting from the rice terraces in Banaue up north, moving down south to the Mayon Volcano in Bicol and the Chocolate Hills in Bohol. It was an embarrassing ordeal nonetheless as she could see that I was struggling to find all the other attractive destinations on the map, which in turn made me realize how little I truly knew about my own country. She was very excited about the trip and was eager to learn more about the country and its people.

She imagined the Philippines to be an eternal fiesta of Spanish and Chinese Third-World flair, filled with warm and accommodating people who all speak with a clear American accent, where all men have the handsome earthy appeal of Jericho Rosales and women the heavenly mestiza charms of Kristine Hermosa (thanks to Filipino soap operas that have become so popular here in Malaysia). It was certainly one of the most honest cultural impressions that I have ever heard and quite amusingly, one shared by many. In my German friend's opinion, the Philippines is one of the most open-minded countries in Southeast Asia. I found this view rather interesting, especially since it came from a European who has never stepped foot in the Philippines and whose only direct exposure to the country, was me.

The funny thing about cultural impressions is that they often come from a place of both acute perception and blatant ignorance, split in the middle by what is painfully true. But they are what they are ~ impressions. Quite naturally, my friend and I have come to build our own impressions about Malaysia in the several months that we have been here. Malaysia is a beautiful country that seems to be in a hurry to develop economically, but is hampered by a palpable trace of social reluctance. It seems grounded on an age-old culture that simply does not mix well with progress, or at least the kind dictated and exemplified by the Western world. I find this true for most developing Asian countries,including the Philippines .

My friend pointed out that she has never seen a beggar in the streets of Kuala Lumpur since she moved here and asked me if it is the same in the Philippines. As a matter of fact, she admitted that she has never seen a beggar up close in her whole life and asked me to explain how it is to live in a poor country like mine. She wanted to know more about poverty. Her question struck a chord in me because I realized that apart from Jericho Rosales, this woman had absolutely no idea about the country where she was going and how it was out there. Here was someone who came to me wanting to know more about my country and the best I could offer was a geographical representation of scenic destinations, which I hardly even knew myself.

By this time, I had put down the pen I was holding, set aside the map,and got ready to explain to her details about my country. I did not know where to begin. After all, how does one explain poverty to someone who has never experienced it before? To make things more relevant to her, I started by comparing the Philippines to Malaysia. I told her that blue-collar workers in the Philippines did not have the same opportunities as the ones in Malaysia, who can afford to eat in the same
restaurants where executives eat or even shop in stores where their own bosses shop. I told her that unlike the ones I have met in Malaysia, secretaries and administrative clerks in the Philippines will eat in posh restaurants only on very special occasions and can barely afford to travel to other countries. I then told her about the beggars, young and old, who parade the streets of Manila, the children who knock on car windows selling sampaguita, the mothers who have to forage for food in garbage landfills,and the unemployed fathers who waste their lives on drugs and alcohol. I told her about the shanties that bedeck highways and railroads, the unproductive traffic jams, the garbage-infested streets and sewers, and the regular typhoons that flood the country and exacerbate already poor living conditions. I told her that poverty in the Philippines unapologetically hits you in the face the very moment you step in. It is an open wound just waiting to be healed.

My friend looked shaken, as if experiencing for the first time a world she has seen only on TV. That was when my tears started to fall. I could not help it. I have never cried in front of a semi-stranger before but for some reason, I cried this time because she was still not immune to these things.

Her unawareness taught me to see poverty as if for the first time myself, which brought out a lot of pain. I have become so used to the pain that I have forgotten how it felt until I painted for her the sad face of poverty.

I then found myself having to explain to her that despite all these, the Philippines is still a beautiful country and this you will also feel the very moment you get there. It is a beauty characterized by the indomitable human spirit of a people who have seen better days and yet still have the capacity to find a piece of heaven in their lives. It is a beauty defined by the untiring faith of a people who have learned to acknowledge their plight with reverence and yet have never lost the courage to dream big dreams. It is a beauty characterized by the painful history of a people who have been abused and pillaged through the years and yet still have so much of themselves to give.

Now her tears were falling, smearing the map that I had earlier vandalized with circles and arrows. But I knew it did not matter anymore at this point.

I realized that my friend had learned all she needed to know about my country and my people. She thanked me profusely, saying that she came to me wanting to know more about how poor the Philippines is but in the end, she learned how abundantly blessed Filipinos truly are.

A beach is a beach and a volcano is a volcano anywhere in the world, but it is the people who make the difference. I learned in that moment that I may not know the geographical features of my country all too well, but I sure know its heart and its soul because it is who I am. The real poverty lies in not knowing this.

Writer Paolo P. Mangahas, 32, currently works in Kuala Lumpur as Head of Communications for WWF-Malaysia (World Wide Fund for Nature Malaysia ). He won Honorable Mention in the 2003 Doreen Fernandez Food Writing Award for his piece "Adobo, I'm Home!" and has published several essays on food, lifestyle, fashion, and social and environmental development.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Indigenous peoples laud new UN declaration

by Maurice Malanes
Inquirer North Luzon
Last updated 08:02pm (Mla time) 09/17/2007

BAGUIO CITY -- Leaders and representatives of indigenous peoples have hailed as a “historic milestone” the adoption on Thursday of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, chair of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, said the declaration would pave the “building of partnerships between states and indigenous peoples for a more just and sustainable world.”

Sept. 13, 2007 will be remembered as ... a day that the United Nations and its member states, together with indigenous peoples, reconciled with painful histories and decided to march into the future on the path of human rights,” Tauli-Corpuz said in a statement from the UN headquarters in New York.

Before the UN concluded its 61st General Assembly, 144 countries, including the Philippines, voted for the declaration, which indigenous representatives have helped draft and have been pushing to be adopted for the past 23 years.

Four countries (United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand) voted against and 11 abstained.

“We are definitely happy [over the declaration’s adoption], but it’s a shame that four countries with significant indigenous populations have voted against it,” Joan Carling, Philippine Indigenous Peoples Human Rights Watch coordinator, said.

The declaration, although non-binding, sets out the individual and collective rights of indigenous peoples, including their rights to culture, identity, language, employment, health, education and other issues.

It stresses the rights of indigenous peoples to maintain and strengthen their own institutions, cultures and traditions and to pursue their development in keeping with their own needs and aspirations. These were also referred as the right to self-determination.


It also prohibits discrimination against indigenous peoples and promotes their “full and effective participation” in all matters that concern them, and their right to remain distinct and pursue their own visions of economic and social development.

The Human Rights Council adopted the declaration in June 2006, over the objections of some member states with sizeable indigenous populations.

The UN General Assembly deferred consideration of the text late last year at the behest of African countries, which raised objections about language on self-determination and the definition of “indigenous” people.

The new declaration is expected to serve as reference and framework by governments, UN agencies and the private sector in implementing what indigenous leaders call “a human rights-based approach to development” as it applies to indigenous peoples.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Ifugao execs vow to push national reproductive health bill

Media Advocates from North Luzon, headed by Ifugao media coordinator EV Espiritu, in coordination with UNFPA and PNGOC, held and covered a forum in Banaue, Ifugao attended by the province' local chief executives. Below is an Inquirer Breaking News article written by Frank Cimatu about the event.

Read on...

Ifugao execs vow to push national reproductive health bill

By Frank Cimatu
Inquirer - Northern Luzon Bureau
Last updated 07:54pm (Mla time) 09/13/2007

BANAUE, Ifugao, Philippines -- After coming out with its own provincial reproductive health code last year, Ifugao officials want to spearhead the campaign for a national reproductive health bill.

Following two setbacks, the House of Representatives proposed another version of the reproductive health measure, House Bill 812 or the Reproductive Health Care Act, to replace HB 3773 and HB 4110, which failed to get the House's nod.

During a forum here on Wednesday, Ifugao mayors vowed to call on their allies to bolster support for the new bill.

Lamut Mayor Francis Tenenan said they would pressure the League of Municipalities of the Philippines as well as the respective leagues of vice mayors and councilors to help drum up support for HB 812.

"The national government will feel the impact and no one can influence us anymore. All these leagues will join forces," said Tenenan.

Reproductive health advocates said the bills failed to pass the House because of pressures from the Catholic Church, which opposed the use of contraceptives.

Ifugao, under former governor Glenn Prudenciano, passed the Ifugao reproductive health (RH) and responsible parenthood ordinance in August last year, making it the second province after Aurora to pass its own local RH measure out of 81 provinces.

Mayors Armando Domilod (Asipulo), Lino Madchiw (Banaue), Pablo Cuyahon (Hungduan) and Jonathan Cuyahon (Kiangan) attended the forum organized by the United Nations Population Fund and the Philippine NGO Council for Health, Population and Welfare.

Governor Teodoro Baguilat Jr. said Ifugao is among the provinces with the most number of Catholics but local officials passed the ordinance because they decided to tackle the code not as a political issue but a development concern.

"We believe that reproductive health is one of the thrusts of the province," he said.

"We expected strong opposition but it was not the case," said Board Member Joseph Odan.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

'Women's issues' in the bar exam

First posted 05:20:38 (Mla time) September 11, 2007
Rina Jimenez-David / Philippine Daily Inquirer

MANILA, Philippines -- "The city mayor issues an executive order declaring that the city promotes responsible parenthood and upholds family planning. He prohibits all hospitals operated by the city from prescribing the use of artificial methods of contraception, including condoms, pills, intrauterine devices and surgical sterilization. As a result, poor women in this city lost their access to affordable family planning programs. Private clinics, however, continue to render family planning (counseling) and devices to paying clients.

"(a) Is the executive order in any way constitutionally infirm? Explain.

"(b) Is the Philippines in breach of any obligation under international law? Explain.

"(c) May the Commission on Human Rights order the mayor to stop the implementation of the executive order? Explain."

This was Question No. 2 in the Political and International Law exam given last Sept. 2 as part of this year's bar exams. This and other questions are currently making the rounds of the e-mail circuit, especially among women's advocates, because, not only is it unusual to see gender-related issues covered in the exams for future lawyers, the questions also tread on issues and concerns not normally thought of as matters of legality or even constitutionality.

Credit for this attempt to broaden the understanding and appreciation of law must go to 2007 Bar Exam Committee chair Justice Adolfo Azcuna. As Sarah Lou Arriola, director for special projects of the Ateneo Human Rights Center, who told me about the questions, asserts: "These questions have changed the landscape of the bar exams. It is a great effort on the part of Justice Azcuna to mainstream gender issues in the law profession."

* * *

Here are the other gender-related questions in the Sept. 2 exams:

Question No. 4: In 1993, historians confirmed that during World War II, "comfort women" were forced into serving the Japanese military. These women were either abducted or lured by false promises of jobs as cooks or waitresses, and eventually forced against their will to have sex with Japanese soldiers on a daily basis during the course of the war, and often suffered from severe beatings and venereal diseases. The Japanese government contends that the "comfort stations" were run as "onsite military brothels" (or prostitution houses) by private operators, and not by the Japanese military. There were many Filipina "comfort women."

(a) Name at least one basic principle or norm of international humanitarian law that was violated by the Japanese military in the treatment of the "comfort women."

(b) The surviving Filipina "comfort women" demand that the Japanese government apologize and pay them compensation. However, under the 1951 San Francisco Peace Agreement -- the legal instrument that ended the state of war between Japan and Allied Forces -- all the injured states, including the Philippines, received war reparations and, in return, waived all claims against Japan arising from the war. Is that a valid defense?

(c) The surviving Filipina "comfort women" sue the Japanese government for damages before Philippine courts. Will that case prosper?

* * *

Question No. 5: The Destilleria Felipe Segundo is famous for its 15-year-old rum, which it has produced and marketed successfully for the past 70 years. Its latest commercial advertisement uses the line: "Nakatikim ka na ba ng kinse anyos? (Have you tasted a 15-year old?)" Very soon, activist groups promoting women's and children's rights were up in arms against the advertisement.

(a) All advertising companies in the Philippines have formed an association, the Philippine Advertising Council, and have agreed to abide by all the ethical guidelines and decisions by the council. In response to the protests, the council orders the pull-out of the "kinse anyos" advertising campaign. Can Destilleria Felipe Segundo claim that its constitutional rights are thus infringed?

(b) One of the militant groups, the Amazing Amazonas, call on all GOCCs to boycott any newspaper, radio or TV station that carries "kinse anyos" advertisements. They call on all government nominees in sequestered corporations to block any advertising funds allocated for any newspaper, radio or TV station. Can the GOCCs and sequestered corporations validly comply?

* * *

As any lawyer or judge will tell you, there aren't any "right" or "wrong" answers to these questions. The "rightness" or "wrongness" of any position or opinion, after all, depends on the arguments presented, the legal precedents, documents and sources quoted, and the witnesses presented. But legal points or viewpoints can be made only if the lawyer is aware of the legal scholarship underlying these positions.

I am especially grateful for the question regarding the possible "breach of any obligation under international law" by the Philippines, as indicated in Question No. 2. I believe the "international law" alluded to here is the CEDAW, or the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women," which the Philippines has signed and ratified. CEDAW is an international human rights treaty that, among other things, "affirms and upholds women's right to health services including access to all family planning methods." Let's see how many future lawyers cited the right provision, mentioned CEDAW and the Philippine government's obligations as a signatory state, or even knew about CEDAW. Maybe those bar takers who never gave a thought to gender and the law will now see women in a new light.

And while this is just a first step, women should be properly grateful to Azcuna for showing the way in mainstreaming gender issues in the study and application of the law.

Monday, September 10, 2007

US Senate: Voting to overturn the "GLOBAL GAG RULE"

Please find below an informative press statement from Population Action International regarding the US Senate Voting to Overturn the Mexico City Policy ('Global Gag Rule').

The 'Global Gag Rule' was reinstated by President George W. Bush in January 2001. It mandates that no U.S. family planning assistance can be provided to foreign NGOs that use funding from any other source to: perform in cases other than a threat to the woman's life, rape or incest; provide counselling and referral for abortion; or lobby to make abortion legal or more available in their country. The Gag Rule has had a detrimental impact on family planning and reproductive health services in developing countries around the world.

Please read below for information on what the new bill does, why it is important and issues of contraception and abstinence-only programming.

Overall, the bill is a big step forward, but the House version of the bill contains a much weaker provision and drew a veto from the Bush White House.

Kindest regards,

Michelle Rogers


Senate Votes to Overturn Destructive Global Health Policies on Contraceptives and HIV/AIDS; President Has Threatened a Veto

September 6, 2007

Despite President Bush's veto threat, today the Senate voted, as part of the FY 2008 State-Foreign Operations Appropriations bill, to overturn the Global Gag Rule and other destructive policies impeding U.S. family planning and HIV/AIDS assistance. The Senate foreign assistance bill already included key provisions identical to the House-passed bill (H.R. 2764) -- exempting contraceptives from the Global Gag Rule and repealing the abstinence-only funding restrictions for HIV prevention programs. However, by a vote of 53-41, the Senate went a step further and voted to repeal the Gag Rule entirely. As a result, the bill will help correct some of the most egregious and harmful aspects of U.S. international family planning and reproductive health policy.

Today's Senate vote marks the first time since the Global Gag Rule has been in force -- from 1984 to 1993 and again since 2001 -- that both the House and Senate have passed legislation to repeal or modify the restriction that has wreaked havoc on family planning efforts, especially in Africa. The Senate's stance is significant in light of the all-important showdown that looms with the White House over President Bush's threatened veto of the entire $34 billion foreign assistance bill because of the Gag Rule provisions.

*What the Bill Does:*

1. Overturns the Global Gag Rule (Mexico City Policy), an executive memorandum issued by President Bush upon taking office in January 2001. The restrictions were purportedly designed to reduce abortion by limiting a woman's access to abortion services, and to ensure that U.S. funding for family planning services overseas is completely separate from abortion activities. From 1984 to 1992 there was no evidence that the policy reduced abortion. There is no evidence that it is any different this time around. Instead, the gag rule is likely having the opposite effect: it has reduced access to contraception, leading to more unwanted and high-risk pregnancies, more unsafe abortions, and more maternal illness, injury, and death.

2. Expands access to contraceptives in poor, impoverished nations by providing a limited exemption from the Global Gag Rule solely for USAID-donated contraceptives.

3. Provides greater effectiveness and flexibility in the fight against HIV/AIDS by allowing the President to waive the restriction under PEPFAR(President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief) that mandates at least one-third of U.S. HIV/AIDS prevention funding be limited to abstinence-until-marriage programs.

*Why This Is Important:*

Statement from Terri Bartlett, Vice President for Public Policy at Population Action International:

"Today the Senate joined the House of Representatives in sending a clear and strong message around the world. We are tired of talking about prevention and the needs of impoverished women and families, and then putting U.S. health assistance in a straight jacket. By voting to overturn the Global Gag Rule, expand access to contraceptives, and repeal rigid abstinence funding mandates, the Senate has brought common sense back to U.S. development assistance. Under the tremendous leadership of Chairman Leahy, the Senate has signaled to the world that the U.S. is ready to walk the walk.

The real winners today are the tens of millions of poor women overseas without basic reproductive health care that American women take for granted. The provisions included in today's bill will save tens of thousands of lives and improve the quality of life for countless women and families around the world. Contraceptives and condoms help prevent unintended pregnancy, unsafe abortion and HIV infection, and current U.S. policies that restrict their flow to women and couples make no sense. The American people overwhelmingly support family planning -- and they know that the real way to reduce abortion is to expand access to contraceptives to those who want them. It's really that simple."

*Global Gag Rule*

Since 1995, U.S. funding for international family planning programs has fallen more than $100 million -- a 41 percent reduction when adjusted for inflation -- despite a growing demand for contraceptives and reproductive health care in the developing world.

In addition to funding shortfalls, the imposition of the Global Gag Rule has had a devastating impact on family planning programs -- particularly in poor, developing nations. In Zambia alone, the sole NGO to operate reproductive health clinics in that country has lost nearly 40 percent of its staff members, scaled back services, and ended vital community-based distribution of contraceptive supplies and health information.

Population Action International produced a seven minute documentary that details the impact of the Global Gag Rule on reproductive health programs in Zambia, one of the poorest countries in Africa. At a time when one in five adults is infected with HIV and nearly 70 percent of the population is under the age of 24, the gag rule has deprived Zambia's primary family planning agency of critical U.S. assistance. The video can be viewed online and is part of "Access Denied: U.S.Restrictions on International Family Planning," a collection of materials produced by the Global Gag Rule Impact Project.

*Contraceptives Provision:*

A provision in the bill expands access to contraceptives in poor,impoverished nations by providing a limited exemption from the Global Gag Rule solely for USAID-donated contraceptives and condoms. It does not provide financial assistance of any kind to family planning organizations. It simply would allow organizations to get donations of contraceptives from USAID.

Since the Gag Rule was reinstated in 2001, shipments of contraceptives from the U.S. government have been stopped in 20 developing countries in Africa, Asia, and the Middle East. Leading indigenous family planning providers in several other countries have also stopped receiving contraceptives from the U.S.

Contraceptives help reduce abortion, HIV infection and other sexually transmitted infections, and save the lives of mothers and infants by reducing high-risk and unintended pregnancies.

Providing modern contraceptives to the 200 million women in the developing world who desire -- but lack access to -- this health care would avert 52 million unwanted pregnancies annually, preventing approximately 29 million abortions, 142,000 pregnancy-related deaths and 505,000 children from losing their mothers.

*Abstinence-Only Repeal:*

provision in the bill provides greater effectiveness and flexibility in the fight against HIV/AIDS by allowing the President to waive the restriction under PEPFAR that mandates at least one-third of HIV prevention funding be limited to abstinence-until-marriage programs.

This will allow U.S.-funded HIV/AIDS programs to better respond to the differing features of the epidemic in each country.

In 2006, there were 4.3 million new HIV infections. According to the WHO, unprotected heterosexual sex is the leading cause of HIV infections worldwide, representing 80 percent of new infections in sub-Saharan Africa.

Marriage is not a protective factor from contracting HIV/AIDS. Over the next ten years, more than 100 million girls in developing countries will be married before their 18th birthdays -- mostly to older men and against their will. These girls have significantly higher rates of HIV infection than their sexually active, unmarried peers.

According to two congressionally-mandated reviews from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) and the Institute of Medicine (IOM) -- and countless experts in the field -- the abstinence restriction is detrimental to HIV/AIDS prevention efforts and should be eliminated.

*What's Next?*

The State-Foreign Operations Appropriations bill now proceeds to a conference committee where the House and Senate versions will be reconciled and sent to the President. Then the issue will turn to Bush's threatened veto of the entire $34 billion foreign assistance spending bill over the Global Gag Rule provisions. Will he reject an otherwise popular $34 billion bill over a common sense measure to expand access to contraceptives overseas -- contraceptives that actually help achieve the purported goal of the Gag Rule: reducing abortion?


ARROW is a regional women's NGO based in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia committed to promoting and protecting women's health rights and needs, particularly in the areas of women's sexuality and reproductive health.

QC councilors mull sex education in local schools

First posted 15:32:29 (Mla time) September 08, 2007
Kenneth del Rosario
Philippine Daily Inquirer

MANILA, Philippines--In a bid to address population issues, the Quezon City government may soon issue a directive mandating schools in the city to include reproductive health and sex education in their curriculum.

Topics centering on responsible sexuality and reproductive health rights, once the ordinance is approved, would be taught to students from Grade 5 to 4th year high school in an "age-appropriate manner."

A budget of P12 million would be allocated by the city government for the implementation of the population and reproductive health management policy.

"Sustainable social development is better assured with a manageable population of healthy, educated and productive citizens," Councilor Joseph Juico, author of the proposed ordinance, said in a statement.

The proposed policy also calls for the prevention of abortion practices and unwanted pregnancies in the city. As provided by the measure, women seeking care for post-abortion complications shall be treated and counseled in a humane and non-judgmental manner.

All city and barangay (neighborhood) health workers would undergo mandatory training in providing reproductive health care services to city residents, once the measure is approved. The city government would impose fines to violators of the policy: P1,000 for first-time offenders; P3,000 and P5,000 for second- and third-time offenders, respectively.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Strengthening the Asian voice

Last updated 02:17am (Mla time) 09/02/2007

MANILA, Philippines -- Asia accounts for 60 percent of the world’s population, but about two-thirds of the global information flow comes from the developed countries. The imbalance has reduced the Asian voice to what an editor at China Daily calls “barely a whisper.”

Although Asia has become the engine for global economic development, its media continue to be overshadowed by Western media.

By their sheer size, American media companies dominate the global news and information industry, allowing them to frame many issues from their perspective.

To help address the imbalance, People’s Daily, China’s leading newspaper, hosted the First Asean plus 3 (10 + 3) Media Cooperation Forum on Aug. 21. Editors from the 10 members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean), and from China, Japan and South Korea attended the forum in Tianjin, a city two hours’ drive from Beijing.

The forum focused on the role of media from East Asian countries in promoting 10 + 3 cooperation, strengthening Asian voice in the international arena, and building a win-win information platform for China and foreign media for the Beijing Olympics.

It was Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao who proposed the holding of the forum at the 10th 10 + 3 Summit in Cebu in January.

To promote cooperation, editors suggested, among others, that exchanges and a network for information sharing be set up.

‘Develop our own forms of journalism’
By Qu Yingpu

I once heard a story I would like to share: In the town of Biratnagar in the Nepali terai—where the north Indian plains meet the foothills of the Himalayas—students were debating the impact of satellite TV on their lives.

One boy said: “I don’t like Star movies and Channel V. The life shown on these channels is far removed from the reality of our own country. Because of these channels, Nepali girls have started wearing short skirts.”

“I think films are much more dangerous to society,” replied a girl. “Nepali boys are very quick at imitating. That’s why we see boys wearing earrings, bandanas on their heads and teasing girls.”

It may not be a pleasant story, but is probably a fair reflection of the current state of Asian media.

Asia is the fastest-growing economic region in the world with a large population and abundant natural resources.

In 2005, the economies in this region continued to grow at a steady pace of 8.2 percent and continued at about the same rate in the first half of 2006, according to statistics from the World Bank. Since the early 1990s, Asia’s vitality has been boosted by regional cooperation, such as the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean).

However, the development of Asian media does not reflect its economic dynamism. Asian countries account for 60 percent of the world’s population, but almost two-thirds of the information flow comes from the developed world, reducing the Asian voice to barely a whisper.

Developments in the media industry have been led largely by Western countries, whose international presence has overshadowed much of the Asia-Pacific media.

Asia, as the fastest-growing economy in the world and the engine for global economic development, deserves better media coverage by news organizations in the region and around the globe.

What implications will the global media integration have on Asia media?

Global media integration means the concentration of the press in fewer and fewer corporate hands and in a few countries. New communication technologies have made it possible for media giants to enter the lucrative Asian market to establish powerful distribution and production networks.

It will have serious and progressive repercussions not only on Asian media but also on cultural, social and economic development.

In many cases, media institutions survive on advertising revenues, which can lead to the media outlet being influenced by various corporate interests. At the same time, ownership interests may affect what is and is not covered. Stories can end up being biased or omitted so as not to offend advertisers or owners. When global media companies enter Asian countries, the attempt of building a new image of Asia will be in the control of Western media powerhouses. The voice of weak countries will never be heard.

It is about time for the Asian media to act together to prevent this from happening—like Singapore’s media regulations that disallow a single foreign entity from holding more than 3 per cent of a Singaporean media company. Otherwise, Asian media will be gobbled up like a McDonald’s Big Breakfast by Western interests.

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Debt, population growth keeping us poor -- Lagman

First posted 00:46:45 (Mla time) September 02, 2007
Norman Bordadora

MANILA, Philippines
-- Massive debt payments and rapid population growth have kept the country’s poor from enjoying the fruits of what the President claims to be a record economic growth rate, according to the chair of the House budget panel.

Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman, chair of the powerful committee on appropriations that will review MalacaƱang’s budget plan for 2008, said the 7.5 percent growth rate in the country’s gross domestic product is real but so are “population expansion and huge debt service.”

“The twin problems of excessive population growth and debt service derail and dilute the expected trickle-down effect of economic growth,” he said.

Lagman, chair of the House budget panel for the next year-and-a-half, said he intends to scrutinize MalacaƱang’s budget proposal for debt payments that stand at almost P300 million -- a considerable portion of the P1.2-trillion plan.

“Economic growth should be complemented by a comprehensive national policy on reproductive health and population management as well as innovative acceptable modes of debt reduction and condonation,” Lagman said in an interview.

“The chief executive must think of creative ways to ease our debt burden [as] many countries are already enjoying debt condonation,” he said.

Lagman said he’s amenable to Speaker Jose de Venecia’s proposal for debt swap schemes that would mean reduced obligations if the country allocates funds for Millennium Development Goals such as less incidence of poverty and improved ecology.

Despite an existing law giving automatic appropriation for debt servicing, Lagman said he would push for a “selective automatic appropriation.”

He has refiled in the 14th Congress a bill that seeks to repeal the law mandating automatic appropriations on debt payments.

An advocate of population control, Lagman has also filed a bill providing for a national policy on reproductive health, responsible parenthood and population development.

“Joblessness and poverty cannot be overcome by economic growth alone if the population problem and debt menace are not contained,” Lagman said.

“If we are able to effectively mitigate population explosion and reduce debt service, economic growth will not only trickle down but may also cascade to the grassroots,” he said.