By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
The Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) or popularly known as conditional cash transfer (CCT) was conceived to achieve the United Nation’s Millennium Development Goals (MDG). The MDGs targeted eight international development goals to achieve by 2015, including eradicating extreme poverty and hunger, achieve universal primary education, promote gender equality and empower women, reduce child mortality rates, improve maternal health, combat HIV and AIDs, ensure environmental sustainability, and develop a global partnership for development.
A recent study by the Center for Women’s Resources (CWR) showed, however, that compliance with the conditionalities are forced upon women.
To avail of the CCT, beneficiaries must comply with the conditions set by the Department of Scoial Welfare and Development (DSWD) such as:
*Bring their children ages zero to five years old to the health center to receive regular preventive health check-ups and vaccines.
*Bring their children ages three to five years old to day care or pre-school classes at least 85 percent of the time
*Enroll their children ages six to14 in elementary or high school and ensure they attend classes 85 percent of the time
*Bring their children ages six to14 to the health center to receive deworming pills twice a year
*Make pregnant women avail themselves of pre- and post-natal care and give birth attended by a trained health professional
*Attend monthly family development sessions.
According to the CWR study, beneficiaries will be delisted from the program if they fail to comply with the said conditions. As one respondent said, “We have to (comply) because they needed our signatures. That is why even though it’s raining we will still bring our children to the health center.”
The study shows that beneficiaries who troop to their health center to comply with the conditionality do not really appreciate the importance of having their children checked up.
According to one health center doctor interviewed by CWR, beneficiaries even forged her signature just to get the P500 ($11) health and nutrition subsidy. The doctor also said limited access to services makes it difficult for beneficiaries to comply with the program’s requirements. “They just come to the health center to meet the requirements. When we require them to come back, they do not, or if they do, they would not buy the prescribed medicines. The government budget for health is not enough, these patients need medicines,” the doctor interviewed by CWR said.
Moreover, 16 percent of respondents said they find it difficult to send their children to school every day because of the expenses, such as snacks and transportation fare. As one condition set by the DSWD, their children have to attend school 85 percent of the time. “One mother said to comply with the 85 percent school attendance rule, she is forced to send her children to school even without breakfast,��� the study said.
Schoolchildren are allotted P300 ($7.14) each for 10 school months which translates to P15 ($0.35) per school day subsidy for each child. “Based on the responses gathered, while more than half of the respondents answered that they spend less than P50 ($1.19) every day for the education expenses of their children, the rest spend P50 and more, and to as much as P100 ($2.3).” The said amount only includes daily transportation fares and snacks; school projects and other expenses are not included.
Mothers, on the other hand, are also required to attend the monthly family development session (FDS). Failing to do so would merit reprimand, warning or penalty or deductions from their cash grants. To do so, 52 percent of the respondents are forced to set aside chores and other economic activities to attend 4Ps activities. “Even those who are working have to miss their work just to attend the meetings.” According to Lorenzo, the meetings last up to three hours discussing about health care, among others.
However, the study revealed that the absence of participation of beneficiaries in the planning process makes the program imposing. “It becomes one-sided and not grounded to the realities of the lives of the beneficiaries since they have not been involved or consulted regarding the program.” As a result, the beneficiaries do not see any sense of ownership on the program.
“The families go through the motion of having check ups at the health center and get certification from the school just to fulfill the requirements of the program, not so much because they believe that having check ups or getting education should be a regular family activity. Once the program is stopped, chances are they would again stop visiting the health center and stop sending their children to school in order to help in providing income to the impoverished family,” Cham Perez, CWR senior researcher and sociologist, said.
The CWR said the CCT program creates a culture of dependence that is disempowering The study revealed that the conditionalities imposed on the beneficiaries have the effect of lessening women’s economic and political participation.
“Instead of developing self-worth from income derived from hard-earned money, the program encourages dependency among women and prevents them from achieving their full potential. What security and self-worth women could get from having permanent jobs or sustainable livelihood, could not be provided by the program.
The forced imposition of the 4Ps program and the government’s lack of prioritization in creating real jobs for women may work against them. Ultimately, as a result, the targets of the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) 2015 will not be attained,” the CWR said.