Monday, September 22, 2008

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

Project Objectives and Expected Results:

To promote and develop sustainable policies and programs in Laguna de Bay through consolidation of MAPAGPALA alliance’s resource mobilization program and to integrate gender in the training and organizing for lake ecology and human security.

1. To consolidate the gains of MAPAGPALA coalition by supporting its advocacy/networking through the production of multi-media materials of its agenda, accomplishments, challenges.

2. To develop MAPAGPALA’s capacity for resource generation both internal and external by providing technical support in proposal formulation/negotiation/fund raising campaigns for lakeside protection and human security in community and the private as well as student/youth sector.

3. To sharpen initial gender mainstreaming in the lakeside/riverside communities to enable women to participate in environmental, economic and decision making processes.

4. To develop women led community – based initiative which supports women participation in the above mentioned arenas.

5. To link with community based resource management (CBRM) networks particularly those with gender based processes as well as the
6. riverside/coastal communities in Cebu where gender mainstreaming has been accomplished in the community as well as town/municipal levels resulting to access to resources, pro-women policies, etc.

7. To develop a team of organizers/trainors/community leaders who can establish similar processes in selected lakeside/riverside communities.

Level of Achievement of the Expected Results and Reflections

1. The project has contributed to the strengthening of MAPAGPALA alliance’s organization, advocacy, networks, and resource mobilization

The following results have been achieved because of MAPAGPALA’s continuing organizing and advocacy:

 More than 200 hectares of illegal fishpen structures in Laguna Lake were demolished because of MAPAGPALA’s continuing advocacy activities. . DENR Secretary Angelo Reyes also committed to conduct further study on the lake’s present situation incorporating the recommendations of the alliance. In a dialogue held in his office, the newly appointed DENR secretary also promised to meet the leadership of MAPAGPALA regularly to sustain coordination of his office with the concerns and affairs of the alliance.

• Stopped the forced eviction of more than 150 urban poor families affected by the proposed linear park project by the Pasig River Rehabilitation Commission along Napindan River in Taguig, Metro Manila.

• Strengthened member-federations particularly the Taguig Coalition Against Dike in Taguig by expanding its membership-base and reorganization of leadership. A new local fisherfolk organization was also formed in Baras, Rizal.

• Eviction problem of 35 urban poor families. Through linkaging with an NGO expert in housing issues (Community Mortgage Program), 28 families in Barangay Malaban were saved from possible eviction of their houses by a private land owner. The NGO serves as a mediator between the two parties involved to explore the possibility of CMP in the area. The process of negotiation is on-going but the threat was already gone.

• Two round table discussions were held with various NGOs, academic and research institution, and fisherfolk coalitions to share potential cooperation on strategies and resources regarding the advocacy on the lake’s environment. The meetings were participated by the HARIBON Foundation, CODE-NGO, Kilusang Mangingisda (National Fisherfolk Movement), Tambuyog Development Center, University of the Philippines-School of Environmental Science and Management, COPE Foundation and NGOs for Fisheries Reform (NFR). Each organization committed to support MAPAGPALA in its cause either through technical aspects like research, training and resource generation.

• Two project proposals were written and submitted to potential funding agencies like CODE-NGO and Pondong Pinoy ( the Catholic Church’s fund-raising initiative intended to support community – driven projects).

• A video documentation and printed material (brochure) have been produced that will be used for continuing advocacy and awareness raising of MAPAGPALA’s agenda to protect and preserve the lake against many forms of destructive activities.

2. The project has contributed to the formation of local women’s organizations and MAPAGPALA Women alliance.

Before the project began in January 2006, the following communities had very loose organizations of women as the result of the previous gender program which primarily focused on providing gender education to few women leaders. This project was instrumental in the formation, structuring and consolidating local women organizations in the areas covered by MAPAGPALA and for the alliance as a whole. The newest member of MAPAGPALA is the MAPAGPALA-Women which local chapters are found in the following towns/cities and barangays numbering to more or less 150 active women-member each group or total of more or less 2, 500.

3. The project has contributed to the resolution of the perennial problems of women and their families.

• Lack of access to affordable but quality medicines. Through establishment of 15 community-owned and managed Botika-Binhi (community-based Generic drugs stores) outlets which benefited around 10, 000 families (approximately 650 families per community) in 13 of the 8 towns and cities in Laguna Lake.

• Lack of access to free potable water. By demanding accountability from local officials in Barangays Malabana and Linga to provide artesian well in their community as temporary relief to the problem.

• Poor drainage system. Improved a portion of a drainage system in a community in Barangay Malaban getting rid of the perennial flooding that cause insect-borne diseases, skin disease, etc.

• Lack of access to legal source of electricity. Expanded the number of households in Barangay Malaban, Binan, Laguna who benefited from legal connections of electricity which usually brought them more problems before such as higher cost of fees, criminal liability for electric pilferage, frequent brownouts due to electrical overuse, prone to fire division of the community and tolerating of illegal business done by syndicates, and lastly, tolerating the LGUs and government’s inaction to people’s real needs. Due to the women’s actions on the issue of electricity in Baranmgay Malaban, the neighboring barangay (Barangay dela Paz) which is not covered by this project has also accessed legal connection when MERALCO expanded its program.

• Lack of access to financial assistance to fund women identified projects. More or less P 120, 000 were accessed from local government units annual budget to support women-identified and prioritized projects such as Botika-Binhi expansion and livelihood. In fiscal year 2007-208, women identified projects are already inserted and included in the annual budget of LGUs.

4. The project has contributed to the development and training of 50 women leaders for MAPAGPALA alliance and in the communities as well.

Women became more aware of the following because of the activities conducted:
• Gender Bias, Roles,
• Generic drugs as alternative to branded medicines; Rational Drug Use
• People became more aware that health is not a priority of their local government units particularly women’s health.
• Gender and Development (as mandated by Philippine Laws) is not popular or mainstream in LGUs; women have no particular or focused programs, no budget allotted for them, no structure made to cater to their needs; the local officials are not aware of policies made specially for women; policies enacted for women are not implemented in the local levels; women have no representatives or direct participation in community structures which affect them such as FARMCs, Barangay and Municipal/City Development Councils, or even in their community organizations.
• Local Budgeting Process
• Lake Issues and Concerns/MAPAGPALA Lake Agenda
• National and Local Agencies concerning women

At least 50 women have demonstrated enhanced skills on the following:

• Leadership and Basic Organizing skills
• Facilitation skills
• Financial Management and Simple Bookkeeping
• Negotiation Skills
• Writing Request and Petition

5. The project has contributed to the development and building of more public relationships that will cater women’s concerns.

Such positive gain would give the public a better understanding of the activities of the alliance and MAPAGPALA-Women and ultimately ensure future cooperation to programs that will benefit the communities. Some of the key government agencies, NGOs, people’s alliances and individuals that have been supportive and have manifested their support to the cause of the alliance are the following:

• Barangay, municipal/city Chief Executives and Officials in the areas covered (except for Taguig City where the LGU officials were all in bad faith with the alliance because of the controversial Road Dike issue).
• The Offices of the governors of Laguna and Rizal
• The Offices of the District Representatives of Taguig-Pateros, Rizal D2, and Laguna D2.
• The Offices of Party-list Representative AKBAYAN!
• The Offices of the national government, namely: Regional Departments of the Department of Labor & Employment, National Council on the Roles of Filipino Women (NCRFW), Department of Health, Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA), Laguna Lake Development Authority (LLDA), Fisheries and Aquatic Resource Management (FARMCs), Bureau of Fisheries, Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), National Housing Authority, Department of Environment and Natural Resources.
• The (Kilusang Mangingisda) Fisherfolk Movement – Women Sector, a national alliance of small fisherfolk women.
• The Kabalikat sa Binhing Kalusugan (KBK), Samahan ng mga Manggagawa sa Botika – Binhi, COPE Foundation, and the Foundation for the Development of the Urban Poor, Baras Parish Pastoral Council.
• The parish priests in Barangay Dalig, Barangay Evangelista, Tanay, Lumban and Sta. Rosa.

6. The project has contributed to the enhancement of women’s participation

• More or less 3, 000 women members in 17 communities
• Participation in local councils meeting and planning
• Participation and representation in the alliance’s affairs, decision-making and programs (MAPAGPALA-Women is now officially one of the seven federations member of MAPAGPALA
• A women’s desk was established in Calamba, Laguna. Women’s Desk is a particular department in local government units but most of the LGUs in the Philippines have not established such in their respective localities.

Reflections on the Results

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 their identified 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.

1. Formation of team of trainor/trainees/organizers to follow up the initial efforts for gender mainstreamning. A CO trainer and two advance community organizers were assigned specifically for the gender mainstreaming component of this project. Each organizer was assigned in one to two selected sites (Calamba and Binan) which covered four barangays with three women organizations for each site. A staff house or field office was set up in Binan being the focal area.

2. Establishment of three sites (Calamba, Laguna, Cardona, Rizal and a third one) after assessment of previous efforts/initial organizing based on gender perspectives in the context of lakeside issues on environment, livelihood and reproductive health and the development of indicators of success as recommended by the local women’s organizations. Three sites were successfully established for gender mainstreaming, namely: (1) Calamba in Laguna, (2) Cardona in Rizal, and (3) Binan in Laguna. In Calamba, three women’s groups in three barangays have been established; Binan (with the largest and biggest land area and population) has three women’s groups established; Cardona has two groups in two barangays. Having full-time

organizers worked in these areas, the sites have also more actions and projects done. It has experienced the full cycle of organizing process. Thus, the elected president of MAPAGPALA-Women came from Calamba.

3. Training and organizing activities of COs and communities in the sites selected. The two organizers assigned in the selected sites underwent the advance CO Course intended for COs who already passed the Basic CO Training. Regular activities for training were conducted which include monthly evaluation, bi-monthly tactic sessions, theoretical education sessions and field supervision. Leaders in the communities were trained through seminars, study sessions and one-on-one mentoring by the organizers. Their actual experience in mobilizations and negotiations, petition writing, conducting meetings, evaluations, community forums, etc., were also contributory to their learning.

4. Networking/exchange with community based resource management initiative with gender-based processes in Cebu coastal communities which have mainstreamed gender in local/barangay level mechanisms. Actual exchange program (area exposure) in Cebu was not able to pursue because of some factors such as availability of leaders both in Cebu and MAPAGPALA-Women for the visit and enough funding requirement to shoulder the expenses of the visit. Instead, the project sought other ways to provide the necessary requirement for this activity. The Cebu model was discussed by an experienced organizer in a meeting of MAPAGPALA-Leaders to provide the theoretical inputs. And in order to expand the network of support from other women’s groups, the alliance linked with the women alliance of the National Fisherfolk Movement (Kilusang Mangingisda). Linking with Lihok-Pilipina, the women organization in Cebu, is still a track that will be pursued even if the project has ended.

5. Accessing of resources for community initiatives for women’s participation. The establishment of Botika-Binhi in every community was a deliberate strategy to start building relationships with key public and private institutions for the purpose of accessing resources for women’s identified projects. Since health service is a universal need that nobody would deny, it is a good entry point both to gather women and potential resource provider. The strategy has proven successful for resource accessing. More or less P 100, 000 pesos already committed by local government officials. The ceremonial opening of each Botika-Binhi where LGU officials were invited to inaugurate was a good tactic to push for counterpart funds from them.

In Calamba, Barangay Lingga committed to channel its funds for its own Botika in the Barangay to the women’s Botika-Binhi while Barangay malaban is allotting P 50, 000 for livelihood project proposal of the women. In Barangay Evangelista, the women leader was invited by the municipal council to discuss about the Samahan ng mga Kababaihan sa Evangelista, the women organization and their projects. The council committed to provide more funds for the drugstore.

A bigger project proposal was developed to totally expand and strengthen the MAPAGPALA-Women Health and income-generating project. The proposal which was submitted to the Catholic Church’s Pondong Pinoy include the expansion of Health Projects.

6. Development of opportunities in Mapagpala for stronger women’s participation.After the successful MAPAGPALA-Women congress held at the University of the Philippines on December 7, 2006, and participated by more than a hundred women leaders from each member-federation of MAPAGPALA, the women has rightfully elected its formal leadership. The leaders elected mandated by the by-laws of the alliance is now a full member federation of the six federations belong to the alliance, with equal rights and opportunities as a regular member. Moreover, at the local level, the women can also participate in the affairs of their federations since local women leaderships have also been established.

7. Formulation of simple handbook to guide communities, organizers in organizing gender based community initiatives in the context of lakeside/riverside/water related resources and directory of support groups. The handbook (as of this writing) is still on the process of development.

E. Reflections on the Strategy and Approaches Used

Two pronged strategies were used to achieve the expected results in gender mainstreaming in this project, namely:

1. Supporting the consolidation of advocacy materials as well as its multisectoral allies, designing and implementing a resource mobilization campaign to sustain MAPAGPALA’s role as grassroots based environmental watchdog cum advocate for lake and lakeshore community security.

2. Follow up the strategic opportunity for developing community organization in the context of gender and aquatic resource management
To mainstream gender in the alliance, it is imperative to ensure that gender is integrated in all of its activities, programs, structures and policies. Thus, establishing separate women’s groups in the local and alliance levels structures is also necessary. The project has initiated two approaches:

The project aimed at developing learning model for MAPAGPALA leaders and COM organizers on how to apply the methods of community organizing in the context of gender given their limited resources against the enormous tasks of reaching out to more communities covered by MAPAGPALA in Laguna Lake and subsequently train leaders who can apply their learning to other communities. Two professional organizers and a trainer were assigned to implement the activities involved in the CO training module. To illustrate the process, the diagram below is presented with corresponding explanation of each step.

No comments: