From the Millennium Development Goals to the Sustainable Development Goals: A Global Call to Collective Action

The Millennial Development Goals, or MDGs, established fifteen years ago sought to eradicate extreme poverty in all its forms.  Along with 189 countries, committed philanthropists, NGOs and other stakeholders came together to address basic social and economic inequalities across the globe.  As a result of their combined efforts the following achievements have gone a long way toward advancing human progress and addressing the needs of people across the globe:

  • Today, people living on less than $1.25 per day has been halved resulting in 700 million fewer people living in extreme poverty  
  • Primary school enrollment has increased by half and in developing countries enrollment has reached 91%  
  • Globally, people receiving treatment for HIV has increased 15 fold while newly acquired infections fell by 40%
  • 2.6 billion people now have access to safe and improved water supplies
  • Child mortality has been reduced by more than half around the world…… still, 11 children will die every minute from preventable diseases until our work is complete

The world is seeing whole communities, whole countries delivered from poverty.  Economic instruments such as microfinance have allowed men, and women especially, to pursue entrepreneurial business and agricultural ventures to sustain themselves, their families and their communities.  Technological advances, like mobile phone technology, are opening the digital virtual classroom for midwives to learn the latest technologies for safe and joyous deliveries while also expanding midwives’ ability to respond in time to the urgent needs of their expectant mothers –  saving lives in the process. Human progress has moved forward with great momentum because of the foundation for growth the Millennium Development Goals built.  We had a plan.  We had a map.  We had qualitative and quantitative indicators to measure our progress.  And, we succeeded in many areas.  Near and dear to our hearts is our work in the Philippines where we find it to be one country to take a look at in terms of progress, achievement, and the work that remains to be done when we begin to implement the Sustainable Development Goals.

There has been mixed progress on the MDGs for the Philippines.  Deaths from malaria  and tuberculosis have declined significantly.  However, the Philippines remains 1 of 7 countries where HIV is significantly on the rise, particularly among young adults.  The use of modern methods of contraception has decreased slightly over time between 2006-2011.  This decrease in the use of contraception not only exacerbates the HIV prevalence and prevention of the disease, it leaves Filipinos vulnerable to contracting other communicable STDs.  Access to universal primary education has increased although retention and graduation rates remain, along with the quality of education, lower than desired.  Sexual and reproductive health and rights education as mandated by the Reproductive Health Bill (also known as the Responsible Parenthood Act) lacks uniformity in its application and in full participation by all public schools who are required by law to provide students with information about their bodies, their rights, and their choices.   

Much of the slow progress the Philippines is experiencing is due to the island archipelago nation’s frequent natural disasters. The Philippines is one of the most disaster-prone countries in the world  ranking third according to the World Risk Index, a report published by United Nations University.   Many in the scientific community attribute the country’s vulnerability for natural disasters as a direct result of climate change.  This unique challenge has  slowed and even reversed much of the MDG progress in the country and has hampered our efforts to achieve goals concerning maternal mortality.  

Maternal mortality continues to be very high at more than double the MDG target of reducing maternal mortality to a maximum of 52 deaths per 100,000 live births by 2015.  Child mortality has declined by two-thirds, although neonatal deaths have only slightly been reduced because many women still do not have access to skilled birth attendance in a facility.  Inextricably linked to maternal mortality is the neonatal mortality trend.   Carrying one’s pregnancy to term and giving birth are the most vulnerable moments of a woman’s life.  While child mortality between the ages of 0 to 60 months has improved, maternal and neonatal mortality have stagnated at wholly unacceptable levels.  Great efforts at sustaining the young with nutrition, immunization, and disease prevention have secured the health of the young.  However, the fact remains that still too many Filipino women are giving birth without skilled birth attendance and are not accessing the birth facilities available to them.  

This assertion, however, does not account for the many more women living remotely, or without financial means, who do not have access to facilities.   Barriers to care are not limited to access and economic reasons alone.  Culturally, Filipino women and their families may have relied for generations on local women attendants at birth.  The Hilots, as they are known to the people, are experienced but lack education and skill.  They will accompany a home birth with minimal ability to address urgent care needs such as obstructed labor, haemorrhage, and eclampsia – all of which are treatable conditions and are even able to be identified during prenatal care by a skilled midwife or physician.  Further complicating a family’s desire to have the birth in a facility is the custom of some state and private facilities of holding women against their will in the facility until payment for the delivery can be arranged.    

Even with the slow progress the Philippines has seen many advancements in the areas of  malaria and TB reduction, access to, and availability of, primary education, basic sanitation and safe drinking water.  

  As we now mobilize ourselves and our organizations to pivot to and implement the Sustainable Development Goals, or SDGs, we carry on the momentum of the MDGs and lessons learned in the adoption of the new goals that are gathered together as a call to action to end poverty in all its forms, once and for all.  Certainly, it is an ambitious endeavor that will require the commitment of the many nations of the world and their partners and stakeholders to focus their development efforts on the sustainability of our planet.

The SDGs are a comprehensive approach to sustainable living with 17 specific goals and 169 qualitative and quantitative indicators to measure the world’s progress. A most welcome development is the greater attention given to maternal health, including sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) than was evidenced in the MDGs.  This renewed and reenergized focus on SRHR stems from the sheer wealth of evidence that shows access to modern methods of birth control is central to fighting poverty and is solely the most cost effective way to do it.  Poverty cannot be eradicated without properly addressing a woman’s right to choose, control and/or space her pregnancies.  

If the need for modern contraception was met across the globe:

  • Unintended pregnancies would decrease by 70%
  • Unsafe abortions would decrease by 74%.
  • Maternal deaths would decrease by 25%

Access to modern contraception has a positive effect on the lives of girls and women.  Early unintended pregnancies often lead to girls interrupting or discontinuing their education which only reinforces the cycle of poverty for their families and their communities. The truth is that women’s participation in the labor force not only increases with each additional year of secondary schooling but it also increases a woman’s potential income by 15-25%.  These facts alone should make it apparent that decreasing women’s’ barriers to accessing modern methods of birth control is good for the health of societies.

To this end, Alay Foundation is dedicated to improving reproductive health for women and their families in the Philippines.   Alay Foundation brings free SRHR educational outreach classes into the barangays of San Jose City, Nueva Ecija to reach people where they live in their communities.   Along with an adult class, we have a youth-centered SRHR class where Alay Foundation partners with local schools to deliver dynamic and interactive classes to the student participants.  Our outreach efforts are growing and expanding with each classroom full of participants  We are excited as we get our work underway in 2016 and are planning to reach as many in the community as we can.  Please join us in our efforts by visiting our “Support” page.  Your donation of $55 will support the entire cost of one class.  Won’t you stand with us in combatting poverty and providing critical health education?

Let’s Talk About Sex: Reflections on World Contraception Day and Our First Teen Class

Let’s Talk about Sex

World Contraception Day

September 26, 2015

Post written by Rizza Paray

World Contraception Day was a day Alay Foundation set aside to meet with teenage students for our “Let’s Talk About Sex” educational class and workshop that covered a wide range of topics related to sexual and reproductive health and rights specifically suited for a youth audience.  From healthy relationships and birth control to sexually transmitted diseases and dating violence, Alay staff and contributors brought these topics to life through our interactive educational outreach programming.  On World Contraception Day we hosted our first-ever class geared toward and for youth.  More than 60 students from the Institute of Enterprise Solutions gathered at Plaza Leonor in San Jose City, Nueva Ecija to participate in a lecture, role playing exercises, and a quiz show game.

My contribution that day was to give a lecture and then lead the discussion on healthy and unhealthy relationships and dating violence.  At first I was nervous but just thinking about girls who suffer from violence gave me the courage to stand in front of the class to raise the discussion.

I feel very fortunate to be part of something so important because I believe this kind of class can be a way of ending intimate partner violence.  The students now will have knowledge of what dating violence is in a relationship and that knowledge will give them greater wisdom and confidence in choosing a partner, in choosing their relationships, and it’s something they can definitely share with others.  Our youth community benefits from this discussion on many levels in terms of open access to information on sexual and reproductive health and rights, respect for self and others, and improved public health and economies.

After discussing relationships, students actively participated in role playing activities relating to what we covered.  Participants had 10 minutes of preparation after which they presented their skits in front of the class.   The role playing was very popular with both the participants and the audience.

One of our guest speakers was a Philippine Red Cross representative who presented on the importance of donating blood.  It is my hope that the students will have the courage to donate blood in the future.  For every one donation up to three lives are saved.  After interacting with the students I feel each of them is a hero in the making and that they will be the ones to save lives in the future!

Following the Red Cross presentation we were joined by Ms. Grace Mansilla, R.N., a professional registered midwife who delivered the lecture on sexual and reproductive health and rights.  The students learned about family planning and preventing STDs.  Ms. Grace also got the students involved with a condom demonstration game where students practiced the proper way of putting on a condom which is the best method for preventing STDs.  Everyone enjoyed trying to get it right!

At the end of Ms. Grace’s discussion we then played a version of the popular American game show, “Jeopardy.”  The quiz show brought all the day’s learning together as the students competed with their knowledge to out-best each other in answering tough questions all related to their sexual and reproductive health and rights.  All the questions were answered correctly which can only mean that the students truly listened to what we discussed in the lectures and activities that day.  All the winners and participants received prizes for their efforts!

I believe that Alay Foundation’s program connected with the students on a very real level and I look forward to working with youths about their sexual and reproductive health and rights in the future.  It seemed to me that the youth are in transition from one period in their lives to another and are filled with questions that need answers.  Human sexuality is complex and information and resources deserve to be made accessible to young people.  We will be reaching out to other youth populations in our area.  If you are a teacher or educator in San Jose City, Nueva Ecija and would like for Alay Foundation to come speak with your students about human sexuality  and reproductive health issues facing them , please contact our office at +63-917-726-5362.

From MDGs to SDGs: Maternal Health Must Remain Our Focus

**Mother and child enrolled in PhilHealth by Alay Foundation
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As the United Nation’s Open Working Group finalizes the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s), Alay Foundation will continue to be an advocate for maternal health and family planning as the SDG’s are put in place to tackle the world’s most pressing problems.  
 
Addressing maternal mortality is a global imperative that requires a commitment of partnerships between governments, nonprofits, corporate sponsors and advocates around the world. A sharing of ideas, best practices, data, research, and outcomes is important to make a global impact on reducing maternal mortality ratios.  This sharing of knowledge with countries that are struggling to meet their target for reducing maternal mortality will benefit them through learning from the strategies of countries that are having great success in decreasing their nation’s MMR. 
While reducing the maternal mortality ratio makes an appearance in the  proposed Sustainable Development Goals, it is not a prominent goal such as it was with the Millennium Development Goals. We must work harder to keep the initiative of maternal health at the forefront of our advocacy work as we partner with other organizations and attempt to change harmful practices and beliefs that deter women and their families from optimal health.  While the birthing center’s construction is a few short months away, we are about to embark on our first comprehensive demographic research study to collect information that will allow us to tailor and structure our educational outreach programs in San Jose and the surrounding barangay to meet the needs of the people.
 
Alay Foundation eagerly anticipates the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals and is prepared to embrace this next platform of goals to eradicate global poverty.  We will continue our work in the field advocating and educating women and families and are excited as we look forward to the opening of our of our birthing center and our upcoming events.