The Galing Pook Awards in The Philippines,
It is not common for a local
government to seriously pursue an agenda catering to almost every
possible need of its women. To achieve this goal, the Balayan Municipal
Center for Women was created to provide services in the following areas,
namely: (1) health education, (2) legal assistance, (3) livelihood aid,
(4) counseling, (5) community organizing and networking and (6)
advocacy and research.
From October 1997 to December 1999,
the Center extended free legal assistance to over 100 women who suffered
different forms of physical, psychological, verbal and emotional abuse
from spouses, partners and/or family members. It gave marriage
counseling to 125 couples and gender sensitivity seminars in 38
barangays including the local police stations. It provided cash aid to
160 qualified recipients as well as self-employment assistance in the
form of interest-free loans to 67 women-clients. Skills training like
meat processing, candy making and sari-sari store management were
provided to almost 100 women from five barangays.
Because of the strong commitment of
leaders and volunteers and their competence in handling sensitive issues
that affect women, the center has gained the trust and respect of
Balayan residents – both men and women alike. Male Clubs have been
organized to provide support to reproductive health activities and
gender-sensitivity training. Satellite/mobile centers have also been
created to cater to women who cannot afford to go to the Municipal
Center. The good news spread effectively because women who availed of
the services themselves willingly became spokespersons for the program.
In fact, it has been replicated in three neighboring municipalities and
has reached-out and brought its services to seven others.
Raising the consciousness of women
with regard to their identity, rights, responsibilities and most
importantly their potentials is one of the wisest investments of the
local government of Balayan. The harvests are unmistakable in terms of
unleashing their power in community building. As a proof, only 2% of
women in the past became town leaders but now 25% of the women lead and
this figure is still growing. Family ties as well as alternative income
opportunities for the household have improved significantly. Clearly, a
relationship between men and women that thrives in mutual respect and
solidarity goes a long way as far as local development is concerned.