Women are all over the place in the province of Bulacan: in community assemblies, mobilization rallies, skills training centers, boardrooms and in the seats of power. More than 100 women’s organizations are actively involved in provincial programs under the Panlalawigang Komisyon para sa Kababaihan ng Bulakan (PKKB). The women NGOs work together, use their resources, and tap external help to address the needs of the community.
PKKB was formed to establish a clear vision for women, ensure gender equality, provide women access to socio-political and economic opportunities, and utilize and hone their skills and abilities.
“We watched women NGOs grow from shy and unsure to aggressive and confident; from passive and tentative to proactive and assertive; from working alone to working in groups and networks,” says Bulacan Governor Josefina dela Cruz.
Prior to PKKB’s creation, women in the province suffered from gender bias and unequal treatment. Males dominated legislative and executive positions, raising the probability of bias in policy-making and relegating women’s concerns to the background. Incidents of violence against women were oftentimes unreported and unrecorded.
Now with PKKB, “women power” has emerged as an important catalyst in the development of Bulacan. Bulakeñas now actively take part in politics--from the Sangguniang Kabataan to the highest office in the provincial government. “Women are now getting their chance to be elected and prove themselves worthy of serving the people,” says Governor dela Cruz whose ascendance to power also exemplified the emerging role of women in her province.
Every year, Bulacan pays tribute to the exemplary performance of women in various fields with the Gawad Medalyang Ginto (gold medal award) during the celebration of Women’s Day in March. Since 1997, nearly 300 women have already been given recognition in the provincial and municipal levels.
Seminars on women’s rights and empowerment provide women knowledge on handling cases of abuse and sexual harassment. Gender-sensitive trainings and orientations have become the norm–from the barangay down to the provincial levels.
To reach out to all Bulakeñas, PKKB assigned commissioners to the four districts of Bulacan. Women NGOs and associations are immersed in every district to aid women in the grassroots level. Twenty-two towns and two cities have already served as venues for advocacy activities on women’s rights, gender mainstreaming, strengthening the family and child, and maternal health issues.
PKKB also assists women’s groups in capability building, project conceptualization and in making government or private resources available. From 2002 to 2003 alone, there were 49 government projects for women amounting to P44.7 million. PKKB has also created the Konsehong Pambayan Para Sa Kababaihan (KPK) in seven pilot municipalities. KPK will be the commission’s counterpart in the municipal level. In 2004, PKKB plans to work with 15 municipalities and two cities.
Among the programs Bulakeñas have initiated under the PKKB is the Sikap-Angat Program where women NGOs help provide livelihood for the poorest of the poor. Under the program called Sa Iyong Pag-iisa, May Kasama Ka, beneficiaries get to earn around P5,000 a month from selling fishball, giving manicure, and rendering other home services. In Marilao, the Women in Service for the Differently Abled of Marilao (Wisdom) was created to help poor children who have difficulty being accepted in regular schools and thus need special education.
Far from being typecast as the weaker sex, Bulakeñas are no longer taking a backseat when it comes to steering public and private sector-initiated programs. PKKB ensures that women will remain a driving force in Bulacan’s development.