“The network is raring to do more.”
The Reproductive Health Advocacy Network (RHAN) is celebrating its 20th anniversary on January 31. We were not able to celebrate this milestone last year. RHAN is the biggest and foremost network of civil society organizations (CSOs) in the country that works for the realization of Filipinos’ sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR).
The network was established in 2001 and has since been at the forefront of the advocacy for rights-based RH policies and delivery of RH information and modern services particularly to marginalized and economically disadvantaged women and young people. Some RHAN members are able to do SRHR education and services in hard-to-reach areas of the country.
RHAN engages with relevant government agencies at the local and national levels in the pursuit of the fulfillment of Filipinos’ SRHR especially in the implementation of the RH law. Perhaps the biggest success of RHAN is the successful advocacy for the passage of the then RH bill into law. The network was a leading force in the more than 15 years of sustained, controversial, and difficult advocacy for this law. Since its enactment, RHAN has been actively and consistently involved in the work of the National Implementation Team (NIT) of the RH law.
It is not an overstatement to say that CSOs, particularly those belonging to RHAN, have provided valuable contributions to the achievements of the RH law so far. These organizations have provided RH information and services to many thousands of women and young people who wanted and needed such.
The network’s anniversary event entitled, “RHAN@20: Championing SRHR for all!” will gather its fifty-three (53) member organizations in an online celebration-cum-rally that will also make public its continuing commitment to its cause. The event will involve more than 1,000 women, men, and young people from different sectors and areas of the country. Together, the groups will commemorate their 20-year adventure through videos, pictures, songs, and panel discussions.
There will be two panel discussions during the affair. The first will feature RHAN’s longtime partners as they reminisce working with the network. These are former Health Secretary Dr. Esperanza Cabral, Executive Director of the Commission on Population and Development (POPCOM) Usec. Juan Antonio Perez III, and the father of the RH Law, Rep. Edcel Lagman.
Up until the present, these officials have been closely working with RHAN and are familiar with its work and members. They were with the network in both the House of Representatives, Senate, numerous press conferences and media activities, conferences, tactic sessions, and many times, even on the streets during rallies. Together with the leaders of the RH movement, they were vilified by rabid anti-RH organizations for standing for human and women’s rights.
It will be a trip down memory lane with the panelists sharing their memorable, and hopefully, even funny moments working with RHAN.
This anniversary celebration coincides with the ongoing electoral campaign. While RHAN as a network will not be campaigning for or endorsing candidates, many of its member organizations have decided to be actively involved in the elections. Moreover, the network is acutely aware that despite the passage of the RH law, major SRHR problems persist including those related with the RH law’s implementation. For RHAN, these issues should be understood by the Filipino electorate as important electoral issues alongside other problems besetting the country.
In connection with this, RHAN decided to also have a panel discussion with select senatorial candidates on SRHR issues considered by the network as its priorities. These “senatoriables” were selected because of their strong track record on human and women’s rights including reproductive health. Invited for the second panel are Sen. Risa Hontiveros, former Representative and indigenous peoples’ champion Teddy Baguilat, Jr., labor leader and President of the Federation of Free Workers (FFW) Atty. Sonny Matula, and human rights lawyer Chel Diokno.
The discussion with these panelists will center on their position on RHAN’s priority concerns and hopefully, their plans in addressing these issues should they win in the coming elections. Included in the network’s priority concerns are the human rights aspects of the RH law such as post-abortion care, RH services for adolescents, and age-and-development-appropriate RH and sexuality education; adolescent sexual and reproductive health and rights (ASRH) that includes teen pregnancy; gender inequality; bodily autonomy; sexual orientation, gender identity and expression (SOGIE) equality; and poverty.
Recent national data on these issues will be presented and the network hopes that through this panel discussion, participants will understand that these are important issues that voters should consider in deciding whom to vote for come the May elections. Moreover, having these candidates articulate their position on the said issues will hopefully help participants make informed decisions on the candidates deserving of their votes.
RHAN and its members have good reasons to celebrate. Twenty years (and continuing) of relentless RH initiatives is not a small thing. The law is there as a testament to RHAN’s commitment and hard work. But SRHR issues remain and human and women’s rights are still significantly disrespected and violated.
RHAN’s work is far from over and the network is raring to do more.
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