Monday, November 16, 2009

The Religion, Gender and Sexuality National Conference

Anchored on the theme “Reclaiming Our Bodies, Voices & Spaces”, HAIN organized the national conference on Religion, Gender and Sexuality (RGS) last November 12-13 at MMLDC in Antipolo City. About 70 reproductive health advocates graced the occasion, most of whom were training graduates of RGS workshops which HAIN has been conducting since 2005.

The Conference’s overall aim was to provide a stage for further examination of the complex relationship between reproductive health, sexuality and religion. It also provided a forum for an exchanged of each other’s experiences in program implementation and advocacy in the context of RGS.

Rep. Edcel Lagman (District 1, Albay), a staunch RH advocate and author of the RH Bill in the House of Representatives, gave the keynote address. Lagman stressed on the need to counter Church oppositions to advance RH programs in the communities and not be undermined by their issues on morality.

HAIN’s executive director, Dr. Edelina Dela Paz, and a representative from the Provincial government of Rizal gave the welcome remarks.

Resource speakers of the RGS workshops also joined and served as speakers in the plenary which included Fr. Percy Bacani, of the Missionaries of Jesus, Sr. Helen Graham of Maryknoll Sisters and Prof. Yasmin Lao of Al Mujadillah. Other resource speakers who shared about the current issues in reproductive health were Rina Jimenez David (Philippine Daily Inquirer), Ana Victoria Simon (form the office of Quezon City Vice Mayor Herbert Bautista) and Atty. Claire P. Luczon of Womenlead Foundation, Inc.

Some of the RGS fellows also presented their experiences in RH and RGS advocacy and how they have shared the learning in their respective communities. At the end of the conference, each of the delegates has shared their commitment in advancing RH advocacy amidst the continuing oppositions from some members of the religious community.

To date, HAIN has conducted 10 RGS workshops producing more that 200 fellows from different parts of the country. The RGS workshops were held to give RH advocates some tools for discernment to make informed decisions about gender and sexuality-related issues, including family planning, abortion, and homosexuality. The workshops also serve as venue for RH advocates to be able to reconcile their personal faith with their work.

With pride, we can say that many of the RGS fellows, have become champions of RH as we now become resource persons ourselves in forums and discussions on various RH and RGS issues. Many of us also engage in regional and national campaigns to push for the passage of RH bill and implementation of a comprehensive RH program. The knowledge and experience we have gained from the workshop enhanced our capacity and confidence in facilitating community educations, community organizing and in handling RH advocacy activities.

At the conference, we have reclaimed our bodies, voices and spaces. RGS fellows are now more confident to argue and defend their faith vis-à-vis RH advocacy.

The conference was made to happen with support from the David and Lucile Packard Foundation.

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