PHL, Indonesia, UNFPA boost Muslim youth’s reproductive health learning

As POPCOM launches Islamic values-based module for gender, health education


Proponents and stakeholders on adolescents’ sexual reproductive health (SRH) in the Philippines and Indonesia are advancing the knowledge of Muslim youth on the subject with the recent launch of the Comprehensive Gender and Health Education for Youth (CGHEY) Module.

After three years of preparation, consultations and field testing, the Commission on Population and Development (POPCOM), along with Indonesia’s Ministry of the State Secretariat and the National Population and Family Planning Board (BKKBN), and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA)—all working under the South-South and Triangular Cooperation on population, family planning, adolescent reproductive health and gender mainstreaming—jointly released the module on February 24, 2021.

The five-sectioned compendium aims to educate Muslim adolescents on critical information in the areas of anatomy and physiology, gender and development, health and nutrition, social relationships, as well as human relations and spiritual responsibilities, in the context of Islamic values and principles.

Developed as a response to the fourth provision in the fatwa on “Model Family in Islam” first presented in November 2015, POPCOM’s offices in Region 12 and the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) gradually disseminated the teachings of the module while in the process of its development, in partnership with civil service organizations, as well as Muslim religious groups and leaders at the grassroots level. It is also considered part of the initial rollout of the comprehensive sexuality education, or CSE, in the said regions.

During the launch, POPCOM XII’s Regional Director Engr. Edwin Mateo Quijano outlined the three major aims of the module. These are to (1) educate Muslim adolescents on Islamic values-based information pertaining to gender, SRH and total well-being; (2) empower them to discern in making right decisions beneficial to their well-being; and (3) protect them from demands and challenges of daily living. He said its core messages are intended for learners in elementary to high school under the Madrasah Education Program.

Undersecretary for Population and Development Juan Antonio Perez III, MD, MPH believes the introduction of the CGHEY module is very timely, given the challenges brought about by the pandemic: “In the midst of the health crisis, POPCOM’s partners and stakeholders continue to move forward by finding better ways of reaching out to our young people by providing relevant information and services.”

Perez anticipates that the learning module will provide young people in BARMM and Region 12 with useful information and skills in their daily lives. These, he said, are for Muslim youth to focus on endeavors that will enrich their knowledge and prepare them for responsible adulthood as upright individuals living by Islamic values, while avoiding engaging in activities and practices that will endanger their health and well-being.

Grand Mufti Abuhuraira Udasan of Bangsamoro’s Darul Ifta also underscored the importance of conveying correct knowledge to the region’s youth in accordance with Islamic principles, as they will impart such to the next generation.

‘Meaningful impact:’ For POPCOM’s Deputy Executive Director Lolito Tacardon, the significance of the CGHEY module is reinforced in the face of the increase in the number of teenage pregnancies across the country—especially among very young adolescents, or VYAs—which is further aggravated by the pandemic’s spread.

“It is vital that we ensure the steady flow of accurate gender- and culturally-sensitive information needed to empower young Muslims, enabling them to make informed choices and sound decisions,” the POPCOM official said. “The module will create a meaningful impact for BARMM’s youth to be healthy, responsible and productive citizens of their generation.”

Citing the Philippine Statistics Authority and the 2017 National Demographic Health Survey, Region 12 and BARMM have two of the highest total fertility levels in Mindanao at 3.4 and 3.1, respectively. Both exhibited elevated fertility levels compared to other regions, and rank higher than the national norm of 2.7.

Given this scenario, and the introduction in the regions of the CGHEY module as an intervention, Perez assured BARMM of POPCOM’s unwavering support through its collaboration with the government of Indonesia and the UNFPA.

“With Muslim boys and girls’ acquired knowledge and necessary life skills, it is our fervent wish that they would be able to make responsible choices for themselves in their everyday lives, act as keepers and role models to their fellow young people, integrate their faith and cherished values in their way of life, amplify their learnings, and be the harbingers of creative pathways,” expressed POPCOM’s executive director.  PR

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