Prior to launching the “Promoting Child Rights” program in 2002, nearly 20% of Maitum’s children were malnourished. Live birth registration was low, while the maternal mortality rate was high. Few individuals had access to maternal child health care services and reproductive health services because of inefficient service delivery.
Exacerbating the poor environment for childrearing in Maitum was the lack of access to education due to the volatile local political situation. Maitum is adjacent to Sultan Kudarat and was therefore affected by gun battles between Muslim separatists and government forces. Those who were lucky enough to be sent to school recorded low academic performance because their families could not afford to eat three meals daily. School facilities, equipment, textbooks and school supplies were insufficient. For example, due to the scarcity of classrooms, teachers were forced to handle multi-level classes in one classroom. Maitum is categorized as a third class municipality. Its resources are highly limited, making implementation of any programming difficult.
Maitum Mayor Yabes envisioned the city as a “child friendly municipality" with healthy and educated children living in a peaceful and ecologically sound community; to this end, he and other innovators in the administration and community of Maitum launched the “promoting child rights” program.
Civil society organizations, including community organizations and school groups, were named partners in the implementation of the different components of the program; their responsibilities were clearly defined by the Program’s innovators from the outset. Reformers organized a Local Council for the Protection of Children within existing structures such as the Local Sanggunians, the Local Development Council, Katarungang Pambarangay, the Local Health Board, the Local School Board, the Municipal Peace and Order Councils, and the Municipal Disaster Coordinating Councils. Participation of other members from civil society, private, business, and religious sectors was encouraged.
To improve service delivery, reformers began capability training with these newly networked entities to enable them to participate effectively and meaningfully in the planning, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of the program. The municipality conducted training sessions that tackled the Convention of the Rights of the Child (CRC) and the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). Functional Literacy Programs were also provided for illiterate parents and caregivers to empower and equip them with basic skills in maternal and childcare. The barangay (the smallest unit of government in the Philippines) health workers, BNNs, mother support groups were also trained in Enhanced Child Growth (ECG). There were also orientations about diseases such as AIDS/HIV.
By encouraging community participation and ownership of the entire program, Mayor Yabes solved a basic problem of his municipality, i.e. limited resources. The program encouraged counterpart contributions. For example, the resources of the community were used to build health and nutrition posts that serve as education and information centers for health, nutrition and sanitation. The Bayanihan System facilitated construction of a primary school and day care centers for two barangays. Parents of children in day care help subsidize the payment of day care teachers, while the Parent-Teachers-Community Association (PTCA) is responsible for improving the school’s façade and facilities.
The municipality initiated other innovative processes to facilitate resource mobilization. For example, to encourage people to pay their community taxes, the community tax certificate is now required to access the health and social services provided by the barangay. As mentioned above, although the program was initially children-centric, the local government also implemented other programs to address issues like poverty, gender inequality, and reproductive health challenges.
Based on the monitoring system implemented by the community from 2000 to 2005 there was a 21% reduction in the number of residents living in extreme; a 73% reduction of residents without access to safe drinking water; and a 65.5% reduction of households without sanitary toilets.
Malnutrition dropped from 27% in 2000 to only 13% in 2005. A 22% decrease in the maternal mortality rate and a 69% decrease in under-five mortality rate were also recorded. Innovators also noted a 52% increase in access to reproductive health services.
Schools, day care centers, hospitals and private homes have been transformed into child friendly locations. The State of Children report delivered every October during the children month’s celebration give people an overview of what has been done and what needs to be done to achieve their common vision of Maitum.
The programs and projects mentioned above have transformed Maitum into a child friendly municipality and helped attain significant gains in the Millennium Development Goals. In 2003, a mere year after the “promoting child rights” program was implemented, Mayor Yabes and the whole of Maitum was given the ultimate recognition—Maitum was awarded the National Award for Most Child Friendly Municipality. In addition, this program has also received the Galing Pook Foundation’s 2005 “Top Ten Outstanding Local Government Programs” Award.