INCREASE Strengthens Women Organizing in Northern Samar
Recognizing women’s collective power
Bayanihan—the Filipino trait of communal unity, work, and cooperation to achieve a particular goal—has been present in INCREASE Project areas, Mapanas and Palapag, Northern Samar. Charita, 40, a woman farmer of Mapanas, said, “Ang prinsipyo na dinadala ko dito sa brgy., nangunguna ako sa paglilinis sa simbahan, pati sa mga kalye lalo na kung maulan, nililinis naming yung kanal kasi bumabaha. Ginagamit ko ito sa mga nangangailangan na mga tao, lalo na sa pagtutulungan sa mga gawain sa barangay, yan yung ginagawa namin, nagbabayanihan kami dahil sa hirap dito. (I bring the principle of volunteering and leading especially in cleaning our [public spaces] church, streets, and canals when it’s raining because it causes flooding. I apply this principle to those in need and during the implementation of community activities. This is what we do—we enforce bayanihan [we help each other] because we’re poor.)” While bayanihan is innately incorporated in Filipino culture and evident in low-income communities such as Mapanas and Palapag, both communities don’t have an active women’s organization. According to CARE Philippines Rapid Gender Analysis on Power (RGA-POW) (2020), women in Mapanas only come together to organize the annual municipality-wide “Women’s Day”, while only one barangay in Palapag has a non-accredited livelihood association of women.
With INCREASE Project taking in place, community members, especially women, have another chance to get together, while maintaining minimum health protocols, learn, and realize their capacities and vulnerabilities in facing natural hazards. Women’s participation in community risk assessments, disaster risk reduction and management, and contingency planning activities has increased their existing knowledge to make informed decisions in emergencies. This space has allowed them to use their voice and be heard by other community members. Maria Rose, 34, a barangay health worker in Mapanas, mentioned, “Importante ang pakikiisa ng mga babae sa mga gawain para maging lider ng komunidad kagaya ng pag-attend ng meetings. (It is important for women to participate in community activities so they can become community leaders, like attending meetings.)” Women, therefore, realized the importance of their participation in building their leadership skills and strengthening women’s voices. Along with this, they have also identified knowledge gaps. On the RGA-POW, a woman leader from Palapag said, “Para madagdagan ang impluwensiya ng kababaihan ay kailangan din ng karagdagang edukasyon para sa kababaihan sa usapin ng [kanilang] karapatan. (To increase women’s influence, knowledge and capacity building activities and women’s right education are needed.)”
Incorporating another project, Women Lead in Emergencies, in INCREASE, has also allowed these women to work on a project to solve a community problem they have identified together. These efforts have provided women with a venue to see and harness their collective power. It has resulted in women actively expressing their desire to organize. In focused group discussions conducted for RGA-Pow (2020), “the women have expressed their confidence in lobbying for rights or providing feedback to power-holders when they are part of a collective.” In addition, they have also confirmed that they will be formalizing their organizations in the future.
Resilient livelihoods encourage women’s participation
In RGA-Pow (2020), it is stated that “women’s influence in public life and decision-making is closely associated with women’s economic power especially during emergencies. Critical to increasing women’s influence on formal decision-making spaces is helping them gain and have control over their own assets and income and to have equal say in decisions about household finances.” KIIs conducted with women community members of Palapag and Mapanas “highlight strong community perceptions that in public decision-making spaces, motions forwarded by economically empowered women are treated with respect and have better chances of being taken into consideration by the community or decision-makers. Such insight is not to discount persons with less influence; rather, enabling women to engage in sustainable livelihood activities increases their control of resources, which in turn enhances their influence and boosts their capacity to support members of the community during emergencies.”
During the last quarter of 2020, INCREASE provided livelihood trainings to selected female-headed households. Sustainability measures were also put in place to ensure that women in the community benefit in the longer term.
INCREASE or Increasing the Resilience to Natural Hazards 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. The project is supported by the SKala initiative. SKala is driven by the German entrepreneur Susanne Klatten in partnership with the think tank and non-profit consultancy PHINEO.