Monday, September 22, 2008

Organizing and Capacity Building for Laguna Lakeshore Communities towards Lake and Human Security

Lakeshore women give high priority to basic needs such as health services, water, education and livelihood when consulted during planning of development initiatives. COM recognizes that lack of, or limited access to, essential services is a major obstacle to women’s advancement because it prevents them from participating in the mainstream of economic development and community life. Addressing these issues enables women to gain self-confidence and participate in transforming gender relations. However, the challenge remains to increase women’s role as decision-makers in community affairs and local institutions, a necessary step towards improving political representation and women’s empowerment.

Community organizing is a means in raising awareness about gender issues. We know, however, that in the communities where we are assigned, gender issues are not necessarily shared, and often are not even known. That puts a burden of responsibility onto the community organizer to make gender popular and understood as part of the people’s empowerment process.

The project contributed significantly to improving women's involvement in public life and accessing resources to respond to there identify needs, which at this moment is more focused on health. Given the clear correlation between empowerment, poverty, and gender on the one hand and the key role that MAPAGPALA alliance play in the protection and preservation of the lake and its environs on the other, the need for greater participation by women, firs of all, in their male dominated alliance, is evident. Formation and strengthening of women community organizations gave equal opportunities for women's membership and representation and they were encouraged to assume leadership functions in the alliance. Women structures, which are also apparent in the community level subsequently, provided more avenues for women to participate in the local government affairs such as the inclusion of more pro-women programs and policies in the development plans.

This project assured that women were capable of participating in setting up, operating and managing small-scale community projects. Initially, fifteen local women’s groups have established Botika- Binhi as a hub for more health-related programs in the future. They learn how to deal and engage their local officials, which made remarkable contribution to bring the LGUs and the communities to work together to improve health services for the people. This experience serves as an exercise to cooperation for other issues and concerns that would probably crop up in the near future.

In summary, the project moved one step forward in advancing women’s capacity to participate effectively by establishing the appropriate women’s structures (organizations) in the community and the alliance. It provided the backbone for women to work into deeper issues of women and not to limit their interests on typical community issues but to take definite actions against other unconventional forms of violence against women. It also contributed to widening their networks and setting up linkages for more active support on their cause.

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