Reproductive Health Conference in Mindanao’s Tribal Area

Story by Deanna Sutherland, ICM Program Support  //  Footage by Kathleen Hilado, ICM CO, Koronadal

Imagine how frightening being pregnant at 14-years-old would be.  This is the reality for the young women in the mountain-dwelling tribal community called T’boli, in Southern Mindanao, Philippines.  The families in this tribe traditionally arrange for their daughters to be married at the onset of puberty.  The young brides often become pregnant at 14 or 15 years old and have limited medical knowledge about human anatomy, pregnancy, or the birthing process. Juanito Policios, ICM’s Koronadal Base Leader, was excited to report that on March 8, 2011, ICM partnered with other Philippine non-profits and government officials to host the “Lake Sebu Reproductive Health and Buntis (Pregnancy) Congress.”

Lake Sebu is one of the poorest regions in the province and only has one health clinic to serve more than the 6,000 women who live there. This important conference was attended by 260 pregnant women from this region and the soon-to-be mothers, ranging in age from 14 to 46, were excited to attend.  It provided essential prenatal information highlighting the importance of consuming a nutritional diet during pregnancy, information about the developing child, breast-feeding, the delivery process, post-baby mother care, and infant care.  The mothers-to-be were all strongly encouraged to have a health professional present at birth.

The partnership ICM’s Koronadal Office made with other NGO’s and LGU’s to coordinate this Pregnancy Congress is a great encouragement to ICM’s other bases who are also working with their local partners to offer the same type of opportunity to pregnant women in their areas.  ICM was thrilled to provide maternal health care packages for the mothers at the event and saw first hand the importance of this community discussion.

Photos by Juanito Policios, ICM Koronadal Area Head

Your donations have made life changing conferences like this one possible.  ICM has been working in the T’boli region for several years, offering its Transform Program and preschool learning centers to communities there.  ICM’s first three preschool learning centers were located in this mountainous region, with primary participants being children from the T’boli tribes.  The success of these initial three schools encouraged ICM to implement the program throughout all 6 bases.  There are now 80 learning centers across the Visayas and Mindanao regions, educating 2,000 students and their parents every year.

The average T’boli household has eight children and the main livelihood is farming.    T’boli women proudly maintain the culture’s rich handicraft heritage which features the colorful beading, brass work and woven & embroidered clothing which make up their formal native dress.    According to Pastor Policios, about half of the people living there have never left the mountains where they were born.  They are very talented musicians and artisans, as you will see in the video below:

[vimeo http://vimeo.com/23804986 w=620&h=400]

3 responses to “Reproductive Health Conference in Mindanao’s Tribal Area”

  1. I’m grateful for the pregnancy & early child-raising education you’re providing these women. Do you do any family planning or birth control education?

    • Yes, we provide education on family planning as part of our general VHL curriculum. This family planning information is included in the general Health curriculum that also teaches first aid, nutrition and disease recognition/prevention to our participants in 480 slum communities.

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