Posted 12 July 2011, by Domini M. Torrevillas, The Philippine Star, philstar.com
Despite the rains, Luneta turned colorful yesterday with the launching of the July 11, 2011 World Population Day celebration, with the theme, “The World at Seven Billion.” A Purple March and Parade had participants coming from Mandaluyong, Marikina, Navotas, Parañaque, Pasay, Quezon City, Valenzuela, carrying literature on reproductive health and family planning information and services.
Seven floats highlighted the seven messages of The World at Seven Billion. These messages are reducing poverty and inequality, empowerment of girls and women, young people, maternal and child health and family planning, environment, ageing population, and urbanization. The Purple Ribbon jingle was launched, and a mini concert featured the Dawn, Imago, Moonstar 88, Noel Cabangon, Lolita Carbon, and more.
The first World Population Day was observed on July 11, 1987; the world population then was 5 billion. On World Population Day, July 1999, the population was 6 billion. This year, the population is 7 billion.
World Population Day, according to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNFPA) “seeks to focus attention on the urgency and importance of population issues, particularly in the context of overall development plans and programs, and to find solution.”
The exact date when the world population becomes 7 billion is Oct. 31, 2011 – just three months away. Yesterday’s parade to the Ninoy Stadium kicked off the WPD 2011 campaign. Between yesterday and October 31, a sustained campaign is being carried out worldwide. On November 2, the World Population Report will be released, showing a 7 billion population, and a host of problems and challenges involved in the meaningful survival of such a population.
Statistics provided by the UNFPA show that in the Philippines, the population has increased more than 10-fold over the last 100 years, from about 7 million in 1900 to about 88 million in 2007 – with growth rate going at a peak of 3.02 percent annually during the period 1960-1970. Numerous studies show that population exacerbates disparities, and limits opportunities for economic growth, as exemplified by the comparative performance between the Philippines and Thailand in terms of population growth and economic growth. A large population also exerts pressure on the already-depleted natural environment for human survival, and this realization, according to UNFPA, promoted the formation of a multi-sectoral population-health-environment (PHE) network that puts this important development agenda into national attention.
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The importance of the Reproductive Health bill being debated in Congress is not lost on a group of highly motivated women who are committed to promoting its passage. Guesting at last week’s Bulong Pulungan sa Sofitel Philippine Plaza, these “Women of Substance for RH” have adopted the motto “Good Governance for Socio Economic Enhancement (GoSee),” obviously in the realization of the connection between unchecked population growth and poverty. It takes intelligent women to realize this crucial connection that can be abetted by responsible family planning as espoused by the Reproductive Health bill being debated in Congress.
Former Health Secretary Esperanza Cabral is the most senior of this group of 11, the other 10 being management specialist Evelyn Singson, former Marikina Mayor Marides Fernando, former San Fernando, La Union Mayor Mary Jane Ortega, Rep. Kim Cojuangco, former Ambassador Lilia Bautista, Cheche Lazaro, Mona Valisno, Nini Yuson, Leni de Jesus and Cora de la Paz. Women of substance they are.
Espie Cabral admitted that the group was handpicked to support the RH bill. “They are bright and bold,” she said. “Everyone of us has her duty to know what the Reproductive Health bill is all about, and have the opinion that the bill must be passed.”
Mary Jane said she would have been the last to talk about family size. Her husband, she said, comes from a family of 15 children; it could have been 20 if there had been no miscarriages along the way. But she saw that her husband’s family was happy. (Besides, the Ortega family has the resources to support a big brood.) She herself had nearly a dozen kids. But when she became mayor and saw how the poor among her constituents badly needed assistance in planning their families, she required reproductive health services offered in her town health centers.
Talking like a banker, Evelyn said there must be a balance sheet showing available resources and stakeholders. For people to get the right benefits, the balance sheet must show equitable distribution of needs and resources.
Evelyn said her group is lucky to be well educated and have the means to practice family planning, “We don’t need to go to health centers to be able to access family planning services. We have to help our poor sisters without access to these services.” What’s needed is a law that gives them information and access to such services.
On the separation of church and state, Evelyn said the church must leave it to the legislators to make the laws, and not pressure them to make laws based on church policy.
Kim declared she will “fight for the passage of the bill to the end.” Mighty good words from a Roman Catholic colegiala. Before she ran for Congress, she served as mayor of Sison, Pangasinan for three “best learning” years. She saw 16-year-olds looking like 60 because they were already burdened by poor maternal health. In contrast, she saw Catholic women in Manila not worrying about having too many children because they simply went out to buy contraceptives. The RH bill, she said, will help the poor; contraceptives will be given to the poor free, and nobody’s forcing anybody to take the pill or bust.
Lilia is single, but she belongs to an organization that visits poor families. “It’s difficult to see why the women can’t stop having babies. They should be informed of their right to choose when and how many children they should have.”
Kim said, “It’s absurd for anti-RH supporters to say the pill causes abortion.”
“There’s no evidence that the pill kills the unborn,” said Dr. Cabral. “That’s a figment of the imagination.”
Those against the RH bill make much of Dr. Cabral’s statement in a previous meeting that the bill causes breast cancer. There is a possibility that it would, but, she said, only eight out of 100,000 breast cancer cases have admitted their having been on the pill.
Expect the 11 to go on speaking engagements to defend the RH bill, whose time has come.
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