International Day of the Girl 2020… empowering and protecting girls in our rural communities
“International Day of the Girl” recognises girls’ rights and the unique challenges girls face around the world. Empowerment of women and girls is a key focus of reach52’s healthcare services in rural communities across South and South East Asia, from creating access to affordable feminine care through to maternal health programmes. The majority of the community-based marketplace area managers we recruit are also women, playing a pivotal role in running our reach52 marketplace and logistics across over 1,000 communities.
One of the demands of International Day of the Girl 2020 is for girls to live free from gender-based violence, harmful practices, HIV and AIDS. This year, as we pursued new ways to improve the health and wellbeing of our communities, we also focused on the issue of gender-based violence in some rural regions in the Philippines. Sponsored by Grand Challenges Canada, we partnered with IQVIA on an initiative to provide new avenues of reporting to victims of gender-based violence (GBV).
The goals of the initiative are to achieve a 30% increase in reported cases of gender-based violence by villagers in target communities, that the women use the referred health services, and that cases are thoroughly investigated by local authorities. A core component is launching new reporting platforms and channels. We created a Facebook chatbot page (@athenaReach52) to educate the general public on what constitutes Gender Based Violence, prevalence in the Philippines, and laws that protect women and children.
In addition to hotlines provided by the government to help in emergencies, we also established messaging services as another option for victims to receive support in reporting GBV cases. Messages received through this dedicated hotline are forwarded to local authorities concerned which is controlled by a reach52 employee following standard procedures in handling reports set by UNFPA. Our teams underwent extensive GBV training to ensure they were educated on how to handle situations sensitively and discreetly. The roll out was supported by an awareness and engagement campaign focused on GBV across the target communities.
According to the World Bank, gender-based violence affects 1 in 3 women worldwide1, and in the Philippines specifically, 25% of women aged 15-49 have experienced spousal violence2. To address this, RA 9262: Anti-Violence Against Women and Their Children Act of 2004 was passed to protect the rights of women and children, paving the way for the creation of Women and Children protection desks in communities. Unfortunately, whilst this exists, there is still a low reporting attitude amongst the population regarding the subject.
Li Jen Lee, reach52’s Chief Operating Officer commented, ‘’As part of our outreach, we realised that many women and children in the communities suffer in silence, believing that they are at fault, or are powerless to help themselves. Witnesses also seldom come forward, unwilling to interfere as they feel they are unable to help. We hope that through our platforms, reach52 is able to provide them with the confidence to raise issues to the right authorities, to protect themselves and their loved ones.”
In fulfilling our purpose of making healthcare go further so every community can thrive, reach52 is committed to ending all forms of gender-based violence and empowering women and girls to achieve their full potential.
1-World Bank Report, 2019. 2-PSA.Gov.Ph
This week, reach52 is launching its COVID-19 Information and Symptom Checker in Senegal and Kenya to support rural communities during the global pandemic. Residents in these remote communities can use the reach52 chatbot service via Facebook Messenger to get the facts vs myths on COVID-19 to overcome misinformation, check their COVID-19 symptoms and get advice based on WHO guidelines.