SRH for WWDs Research Team Trains New Researchers for Data Gathering

Members of the SDRC “Sexual and Reproductive Health of Women with Disability in the Philippines: Building Evidence for Action” project team conducted a Disability Inclusive Research Training from August 12 to 15 at the Imperial Palace Suites in Quezon City. Principal investigator Cathy Vaughan, co-investigators Jesusa Marco and Jerome Zayas, and researcher Graeme Armecin facilitated the training and provided an orientation to the project, which seeks to address the needs of disabled women in two sites—Quezon City and Ligao City in Albay province—in gaining access to quality sexual and reproductive health and services.

The disability inclusive training is part of the research design, in which capacity development activities will ensure that representatives of disabled persons organizations, local research institutes and service provides are equipped with the skills and confidence that will enable them to be local research partners. Members of Philippine partner organizations PARE (Persons with Disability Advocating for Rights and Empowerment), WOW LEAP (Women with Disabilities Leap Social and Economic Progress), the Likhaan Centre for Women’s Health, and the Centre for Women’s Studies at the University of the Philippines attended the training and shared their own experiences and insights on conducting research and accessing SRH services.

The training was highlighted by presentations made by experts in the field, who provided valuable information to prepare the group for the first stage of data gathering. From a medical perspective, Dr. Junice Melgar of the Likhaan Women’s Center gave an introduction to the subject of “Understanding the Sexual and Reproductive Health of Women with Disabilities,” first defining RH in terms of all matters relating to the reproductive system, identifying the core RH services, and pointing out the key issue of RH inequities, particularly stemming from myths about WWDs. In a later session, she also discussed “Complexity in Conducting Research in the ‘Post-RH Bill’ Environment,” centering on the difficulties of reproductive health in the Philippine context given that there is almost total ignorance and neglect of SRH for WWDs, and that the Department of Health itself does not have an RH program.

Ms. Joy Garcia of WOW LEAP spoke on “Disability: A Human Rights Perspective,” providing a situational analysis of PWDs in the Philippines, citing the significance of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, and tracing the progression from the “old way” of seeing disability to the new and emerging models that are currently used. She also relayed her thoughts on “Interviewing People with a Range of Impairments: Basic Courtesies Toward Persons with Disabilities,” emphasizing that it was important that people remove their attitudinal barriers toward PWDs, and specifying situations in which the environment could become more disabled-friendly (by choosing appropriate venues, considering the use of assistive devices when accommodating PWDs, and conducting one’s self properly depending on the type of disability the PWD has).

Former UP CWS Director Dr. Carol Sobritchea’s presentation “Understanding Disability Inclusion and Gender Sensitivity” defined both terms by “testing” participants with a gender sensitivity scale, speaking in detail on the Center’s dealing with cases under the Anti-Violence Against Women and Their Children law (RA 9262), and on the importance of the Magna Carta of Women as the Philippine government’s pledge of commitment to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW).

In her talk on “Lessons Learned in Conducting Qualitative Research with PWDs,” Dr. Teresa Batangan of the University of the Philippines first distinguished qualitative from quantitative studies and the importance of both, then proceeded to explain her nine principles of conducting research, or factors to consider that are sometimes overlooked when dealing with vulnerable groups.

Two of the participants—Krissy, who is visually impaired, and Weng who is hearing impaired—also imparted what they have learned in interviewing people about sensitive topics, and gave guidelines on how to deal with persons from their respective cultures of disability.

In further preparing for the data gathering component, Dr. Vaughan sought feedback from the participants on what their experiences were of stigma as a cultural barrier, and what they foresaw would be the challenges they would face in the field. Mr. Zayas presented statistics on disability in the Philippines and an overview on what has been conducted in the area of disability research; he also discussed case studies that are inclusive and not inclusive in relation to disability, gender and sexuality. Dr. Marco reminded participants of what the project sought to accomplish, and presented to them the working draft of the questionnaire for their feedback and suggestions. Meanwhile, a qualitative research training involving selected members of the SRH of WWDs team was conducted from September 24 to 27, 2013 at the Cocoon Boutique Hotel in Quezon City. During this training, interview guides for WWDs and question guides for focus group discussions with partners, carers and service providers were developed and practiced on for the qualitative data gathering phase of the project. A third training for members of the entire research team, both for Quezon City and Ligao, will be held from October 14 to 18, 2013 as final preparation prior to embarking on field work. The “Sexual and Reproductive Health of Women with Disability in the Philippines: Building Evidence for Action” project is funded by AusAID through the AusAID Development Research Award (ADRA) with substantive co-funding from the UNFPA Philippines Country Office.