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On August 17, 2016, Dr. Anthony G.H. Cordero, an Associate Professor of Community Medicine from UP College of Medicine, gave a brief orientation about gender sensitivity to the Lukan community, held at the Angelo King auditorium.

Dr. Cordero kicked off his talk by asking for 20 volunteers—10 males and 10 females—from the audience for an initial activity created by the World Health Organization (WHO). Statements were given, and the participants needed to give their opinion on whether they strongly agreed, agreed, disagreed or strongly disagreed. The statements were as follows:
1. Women are better than men in taking care of children two to six years of age.
2. Men are better in subjects like Physics, Math and Engineering.
3. The Philippines should continue to oppose same sex marriage.
4. In intimate heterosexual relationship, the sexual act is more important for the man than the woman.
Those who strongly agree to these statements have traditional mind sets and those who strongly disagree are more open minded and have a liberal point of view, according to Dr. Cordero.  The point of conducting this activity was to remind everyone that there are four hundred gender differences and each individual is unique.

Dr. Cordero started his talk about the difference of sex and gender, wherein sex is a biological trait and gender is only a socially constructed concept. He emphasized that no one was born with gender concept. Family, religion, school and media formed these ideas and thus gender concepts can still be changed if provided with justifications.

As one desires to change a concept, there is a need to look at it’s historical roots. Examples of social constructs from recent years were also cited. These included the medical school curricular frameworks, professional athletes being allowed to participate in the Olympic games by the year 1992, and criteria for evaluating medical students in a clinical rotation, among others.

There was another activity wherein 12 participants were each given a character. Vice governor of Central Luzon, a 36 year old dentist, a commercial sex worker, a public teacher, a bus conductor, and a person living in an evacuation center were each assigned to one male and one female, creating a range of both social status and gender. The participants were asked to take one step forward each time they thought their character could afford one of the following:
• Visit the doctor and the total cost of the medicine is 1100 php.
• Internet access of sixty minutes everyday.
• Bring the whole family out of town locally at least three times a year.
• Participate with the municipal mayor in solid waste program.
• Provide complete immunization for their children.
According to the point of view of the participants, those who could afford such things, or those who gained the most steps, were both male and female vice governors, male and female 36 year old dentists, and a male commercial sex worker. Those who gained fewer steps were male and female public teachers, a male in an evacuation area, and a female bus conductor. The fewest steps among them were taken by the female commercial sex worker, the male bus conductor, and the female in an evacuation area.

The activity’s interpretation was that those who gained more steps were those who have higher quality of life and health status. The result clearly showed that health is dependent on such social determinants including gender. Our country exhibits a traditional concept which gives rise to gender inequality, such as 99% of government health workers being female, men having lighter penalties than women when it comes to marriage infidelity, and men having less access to health services that are only available during normal working hours.

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The impact of risks and protective factors are different for women and men because of how a society is organized. In order to address this problem, gender mainstreaming has been conducted by almost all health organizations all over the world. This includes ideas such as anti-sexual harassment measures, using gender-fair language, and conducting gender sensitivity workshops.

The Philippine health care system is one of the topmost priorities of this mainstreaming, and it starts with changing the concept of the students that will soon become health care professionals and teachers. Despite the efforts of various organizations, the success of gender mainstreaming is still inadequate, as some institutions have still been still unable to embrace this new concept. Change will come to our country, but it will take a very long time—a generation or two, according to Dr. Cordero.

The orientation ended with an announcement from Dr. Malaya Santos, the college secretary, that the St. Luke’s College of Medicine is embracing this new concept and will start to participate in implementing this change.