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“Men should be men enough to ensure that no woman should die giving life.” This was the challenge made by Albay Rep. Edcel C. Lagman to the all-male participants of the “Men’s Congress” on maternal health and safe motherhood sponsored by the Quezon City Council on Population (QCCP) on 17 October 2007.

Lagman, a staunch women’s rights and reproductive health advocate, enjoined the participants to actively involve themselves in matters pertaining to family planning and responsible parenthood.

More than half a million women worldwide die annually from complications during pregnancy and childbirth and 99% of these mothers come from developing countries like the Philippines. Lagman stated that “maternal deaths in this country account for an alarming 14% of all deaths among women with 10 mothers dying daily and 43% of all pregnant women do not receive assistance from a doctor, midwife or nurse during childbirth.” He also pointed out that the death of a mother has devastating effects on the children left behind with infants whose mothers die having reduced chances of living to see their first birthdays.

“Pregnancy is not a disease but for many poor women, it is virtually a death sentence. The birth of a child must be a time for celebration, not mourning,” the Bicol solon emphasized.

Lagman asserted that men are crucial in ensuring gender equality and saving women’s lives because in Philippine society, men play a dominant role in almost every sphere of life – from private decisions like family planning to public policies on reproductive health and women’s rights. He underscored that it is precisely within the realm of politics and religion – in which men play central roles – that key reproductive health decisions affecting women’s lives have been made and are being made.

He encouraged the participants composed of local legislators of Quezon City; City Hall officials and employees; and police officers to “resist the gender stereotypes that assign the role of babymakers to women and breadwinners to men because maternal health is not a purely women’s issue. The health and safety of mothers is everyone’s business.”

According to Lagman, apart from the promotion of gender equality and the active participation of men in maternal health, the following are other strategies to ensure safe motherhood:

  1. Women must have access to all family planning methods, including modern contraceptives, to avoid unwanted pregnancies and help them plan their families;
  2. All pregnant women must have access to skilled care at the time of birth; and
  3. Pregnant women who experience complications must have timely access to quality emergency obstetric care.