Likhaan was founded in 1995 by a mixed group of women — activists, health professionals and community leaders — to “develop alternative pathways for women” towards the achievement of the highest possible state of health and rights.
Likhaan was established to address the key issue of inadequate access to key SRH care services by women, especially poor and marginalized women. Social structures behind this problem are the dominant Catholic orthodoxy in policies and culture; pervasive and longstanding economic inequities; and a health system that mirrors the social structures and aggravates this further through institutional underfunding and inefficiencies.
Likhaan addresses three key and interrelated SRH problems: the very slow decline in maternal mortality; high rate of unintended pregnancy due to low contraceptive access; and significant prevalence of sexually transmitted infections (STIs), including HIV and HPV (human papilloma virus, the main cause of cervical cancers).
Likhaan’s goal is to reduce SRH deaths and illnesses in poor communities by increasing women’s and young people’s access to basic SRH and rights (SRHR) information and services through direct health care services, community organizing and policy advocacy.
Likhaan’s main strategy for responding to the problem is through community-based health programs (CBHPs). CBHPs were originated in the 1970s by health activists to provide health care in poor rural areas, as well as to organize communities for democratic governance as part of the struggle against the Marcos dictatorship. Likhaan’s CBHPs follow the same principles of being powered by marginalized sectors in the community and health system—i.e., poor women and youth, and auxiliary and midlevel health providers. We added the elements of gender equality and women’s rights to the CBHP framework.
It began with two community-based women’s health programs in two very poor communities run by local women leaders, coordinated and trained by a small central office staff of women activists and health providers. We were fortunate to receive funding support for community education and organizing from activist organizations in Canada and Scotland; and for developing sexual and reproductive health (SRH) services in the women’s clinic from the UNFPA. Likhaan’s expansion of our geographical reach and donor partners to the current level of eight community-based health programs mainly follows this mode. We developed the capacity to run simultaneous programs because of 3-to-5-year fundings by the UNFPA, European Union (EU), Global Affairs Canada (GAC) and Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF).
Currently, Likhaan runs nine CBHPs in five cities of Metro Manila, two nearby semi-urban provinces used as relocation for evicted slum dwellers, and one rural province badly demolished by Typhoon Haiyan. These CBHPs integrate our three regular programs: women and youth organizing, the primary care SRH clinics, and advocacy for policy and normative changes at the local and national levels.
The community-based clinics serve as jump off points for mobile/outreach services to areas outside the seven communities, usually upon request by local government units (LGUs) and other CSOs. Seven of these clinics are accredited by the Department of Health (DOH) and the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth, a government agency) for maternal and contraceptive services, which means Likhaan can earn reimbursements for services to women-patients enrolled in PhilHealth.