Joy Macaraig is a population officer in the Naga City Population Office in the Philippines and also the city’s family planning coordinator. She believes that attending The Challenge Initiative’s (TCI’s) Leadership for Adolescents and Youth-Friendly Cities (LAYFC) for City Leadership Teams (CLT) has made her a transformational leader.
Naga City is one of 10 TCI-supported cities in the Philippines that are implementing high-impact interventions to help reduce teenage pregnancies, such as Leadership for Adolescent and Youth-Friendly Cities and Meaningful Youth Engagement. As of March 2022, Naga’s CLT has contributed Php2.5 million (about US$43,000) to participate in TCI. Macaraig’s work includes delivering family planning, population and nutrition services to the residents of Naga City. After 23 years in city government, she has seen how local leaders address adolescent and youth sexual reproductive health (AYSRH) programming and other social welfare services.
Before LAYFC, our concept of a leader was someone who is expected to deliver results even if he or she has to do everything. However, we learned from our training with TCI that we can share responsibilities, delegate tasks and still deliver the results we envisioned.”
Naga City’s health indicators show that the city reduced its teenage pregnancy rate from 30.33% in 2017 to 23.8% in 2020. The latest data from the City Civil Registry Office revealed that there were 561 teen pregnancies recorded for the past two years, 293 in 2020 and 268 in 2021. The Philippine Development Plan is aiming for a rate of 37 per 1,000, while one of TCI’s partners, the Commission on Population and Development (POPCOM), is looking at reducing it by 50% more from the baseline of 57% in the 2013 NDHS to 28% by 2022.
The government wants to bring it down further, so joined TCI in November 2021. But according to Macaraig, the mobility restrictions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic prevented them from fully implementing AYSRH programs.
The LGU didn’t want to risk it, so we had to follow the protocols. The gaps in implementing the interventions somehow halted the momentum, so there were also gaps in delivering services. We knew we would be able to overcome this because we are bridging leaders, after all.”
Even if it is only a year since Naga City became a TCI city, Macaraig said the interventions – in particular the LAYFC training – helped strengthen AYSRH programs by strengthening the capacity of stakeholders, especially the City Leadership Team. When one of their team members saw a teen pregnancy, he or she would immediately refer the young mother to their health facility. Macaraig noted:
The health workers show signs of ownership.”
To date, Naga City has three teen centers providing direct interventions such as contraceptives and counseling. The barangay (village) officials operate these centers in partnership with health workers. Macaraig said the LAYFC training enabled them to recognize the need for a more structured approach when implementing programs and reaching their goals.
Before, we just did what we were used to doing and we were able to meet our objectives. But with TCI training, we were enlightened that there are some steps that we need to fulfill first before we go to the next if we want to go beyond our desired results.”
In addition, Naga City also found value in how data are used for decision-making. Because of this, the CLT has established a database that serves as their main repository of information where the local government can track progress and troubleshoot areas that need to be fixed.
Naga City previously had AYSRH and youth programs in place, but according to Macaraig, the LAYFC training and other interventions provided them with a clearer picture of and more direction on what tasks entail and how to complete them.
TCI and the Zuellig Family Foundation’s expertise in bridging leadership training will enable us to write our own story when we will be left on our own a few years from now.”