Increasing Women’s Community Participation: Thoughts From A Woman Leader
Story by: Agri-Aqua Development Coalition
Jovelyn Malinao, 49 years old, has been Brgy. Gamut’s Chairperson since 2013, after serving as a Barangay Councilor for 9 years. But unlike other public servants with aspirations of public service, Jovelyn never imagined that she can lead a barangay. “Before, I was shy as I was a mere housewife. I don’t usually talk to people. I prefer to stay at home, take care of my children, do our chores like washing our clothes, and take care of my husband,” said Jovelyn. It was only after her friends and other individuals in the barangay have encouraged her that the thought came to her mind. She finally decided to run for public office when her husband also told her, “Go and try it.”
Jovelyn understands the barriers that women have to go through to become leaders. “Before, leadership is only for men,” said Jovelyn. Women face challenges and could not easily participate in community activities. “First, women are hindered from participating in community activities when there’s no support coming from the family, especially when the husband doesn’t give consent. Secondly, women always think of the family’s livelihood first. When they don’t have enough income to support the family, they prioritize the family’s needs and they can’t participate in community activities. Thirdly, women want to focus more on their children and their needs.”
Jovelyn may relate to the challenges to women’s community participation but strongly feels the need to serve their barangay. She knows that a woman leader and women, in general, can do more. “I believe that both sexes have the same concern for constituents. But, I think it is best that we give women a chance to become leaders because women can easily encourage participation from the community. It can be compared to a home when children would run to their mothers when they have problems because mothers are empathetic and understanding,” she shared.
To overcome these challenges, women leaders must step up and encourage the participation of other women in community activities. Jovelyn focused her efforts on information education campaigns and communal learning activities such as trainings, seminars, and workshops. She personally went to the women in her barangay to motivate them to join in these activities. For her, everyone should know that women have equal rights as men in accessing opportunities. “It is important to make women understand that they have rights to lift up themselves and for the men to know that they should not hinder what the women want to achieve,” said Jovelyn. Because of Jovelyn’s efforts, along with the support of her barangay council, more women in Brgy. Gamut participate in community activities and also take leadership roles.
Brgy. Gamut, in Barobo, Surigao del Sur, is one of the barangays supported by Philippines: Increasing the Resilience to Natural Hazards (INCREASE). INCREASE aims to increase the resilience of 45,000 women and men small-scale farmers and fishers, including 720 extreme poor female-headed households, to natural hazards and the effects of climate change. This project is implemented by CARE Philippines, together with Assistance and Cooperation for Community Resilience and Development, Inc (ACCORD), Cordillera Disaster Response and Development Services (CORDIS), Leyte Center for Development, Inc (LCDE), and Agri-Aqua Development Coalition – Mindanao (AADC), through the support of SKala Initiatives of Germany.