Improved Access to AYSRH Data Results from Strengthened Partnerships in General Santos City
Contributor: Armin Adina
General Santos City in the Philippines has experienced a lot of changes in its approach to adolescent and youth sexual and reproductive health (AYSRH) programming since its engagement with The Challenge Initiative (TCI), That’s according to the city’s Population Program Officer, Judith Janiola.
Judith shared that before the Zuellig Family Foundation (ZFF) introduced TCI, there were numerous interaction and coordination challenges between the various departments and agencies involved with the implementation of Republic Act 10354 (The Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act of 2012) in this highly urbanized city located on the island of Mindanao, south of the Philippines. However, this all changed with the introduction of TCI and the Leadership for Adolescent and Youth Friendly Cities (LAYFC) training that the leaders of the departments and agencies received last quarter. She explained:
The partnership resulted in close collaboration. And because TCI encouraged all agencies involved with AYSRH to come together, the issues in data gathering in the past have also been resolved. The program [TCI] helped the city executive team identify key personnel and point persons needed to provide information that are vital for decision-making.”
A memorandum of understanding was developed and supported by Mayor Ronnel Rivera that gives all departments and agencies access to data and files from all the other departments and agencies. Judith said this new access to data was only possible through the strong leadership of Mayor Rivera and the work of the executive team in coming together as a true team:
We needed a strong and charismatic leadership to influence them [all department and agency heads] to provide data that are significant. It [The data] must be fresh and reliable, too.”
This newfound accessibility and transparency in data has also been much appreciated by the private sector, which was encouraged by these efforts to join in a public-private partnership (PPP) with the city. Judith explained that collaborations such as this are essential given the mobility restrictions in effect due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
TCI had a great impact on Judith and her team:
I now look at the problems and issues more rationally. It enabled my team and I to assess the situation more critically – what are the causes, what are the effects, what are the strong solutions that we can provide, especially for our stakeholders.”
When COVID-19 health and safety protocols are lifted and General Santos City is able to bring its revitalized AYSRH services to the barangays (villages), Judith and the executive team members are well-aware and committed to harmonizing the data collected and using it to make decisions and plan future actions. As a result of the partnership with TCI, the relationship with national government agencies and non-government organizations has improved and will facilitate the collection of complete and reliable data.
Strengthening existing data systems, leveraging existing funding opportunities and commitments made by the mayor, the Sangguniang Kabataan (youth council) and PPP, and supporting existing health and social welfare staff increases not only the likelihood of General Santos City’s ability to deliver quality AYSRH programming and services but also its sustained impact. Judith shared:
The institutionalization of TCI in the city, and in the barangays, is very important. After we ‘graduate’ from our partnership, you will leave footprints in the city because of the exposure to these technical trainings and the LAYFC training. We are happy that you are there for us, 100 percent, whenever we need something.”