Implementing the Magna Carta of Women

In celebration of March 8, International Women’s Day, the WeGovern Institute pays tribute to the active and dedicated women on the ground who spend almost all of their time to serve their communities.

This International Women’s Day, the Institute also shares to women around the world, some short inspiring stories of women on the ground that reflect initial significant successes and lessons of its project “Implementing the Magna Carta of Women: Enabling and Empowering Women on the Ground to Actively Participate in Politics and Governance” which the British Embassy Manila supported.

Although there are many good laws passed in the country to uphold and protect the rights of women there are gaps in the enforcement of these laws. The WeGovern Institute seeks to address this gap through its work on the advancing the implementation of the Magna Carta of Women.

This project, which aimed to develop gender-sensitive and gender-responsive barangays or villages, is a series of seminars on the Magna Carta of Women, Gender Responsive Planning and Budgeting, Women’s Participation in Politics and Governance, and Women’s Leadership Training. In these seminars women and some men were taught about the rights of women as embodied in R.A. 9710 or the Magna Carta of Women, how to become an effective woman leader, how to make a gender responsive development plan, and what good governance is all about, and women’s stake in increasing their participation in good governance and politics.

The awareness created by the project, hopefully, will lead women to action towards the city implementation of the GAD Code or Magna Carta of Women, or create a GAD code if there was none, or any measures that will advance the rights of women in their barangays and cities, access the 5% GAD funds, and to increase women’s participation in politics and governance in their barangays.

After almost eight months of project implementation, the project is proud to share that one of the main achievements of the project was the formation of the core group of women leaders. The women themselves who attended the seminars decided to form a core group of women leaders to advance further the rights and welfare of women. Some of the many inspiring stories of women seminar participants on the ground reflect some of the important achievements of the project:

Barangay (village) Pamplona Uno in Las Pinas City, one of the pilot communities of the project has no women’s desk when the project started. The women who participated in the seminars that the WeGovern Institute conducted, did not waste time to report to the head of the village or barangay what transpired in the seminar and told him about the provisions in the Magna Carta to develop Women’s desks and GAD focal point system. Their efforts bore fruits when the Barangay Captain approved the creation of a Violence Against Women and Children (VAWC) Desk this February 2012 person, Marivic Ballaros, who was consistently attending the WeGovern Institute’s seminar, was appointed as the focal person. Marivic accepted the challenge even as she still needs more training.

The core group of women leaders in Las Pinas, which was also one of the results of the project, expressed willingness to share their experiences on how to develop the VAWC desk of Pamplona Uno. The WeGovern Institute also expressed its support by promising to provide printed copies of laws relevant to the work of the desk, coach her, and possibly provide training to their barangay on how to handle cases of violence against women.

Another inspiring story came from woman in-charge of the VAWC desk in Barangay Rincon, Valenzuela City, Rose Bartolo who was also a participant in the WeGovern Institute’s seminars. She described the effects of the seminar on her and her work as a barangay councilor and in-charge of the VAWC desk. She revealed that before she did not have the courage to point out to the perpetrators of VAWC the rights of women being violated. Today, she said that she has become more confident and can now boldly tell the abuser the rights of women violated by the violence perpetrated against her. Rose is also a member of the core group of women leaders of Valenzuela which was formed during the seminar.

Another important development in Valenzuela City was the support of the Liga ng mga Barangay to the core group formed and the chairperson of the Liga promised to take the concerns of the core group so it could function continuously in advancing the rights and welfare of women. The GAD Council of the City of Valenzuela, also recognized the importance of the core group as this will serve as their link to the women on the ground. This development illustrates the increasing consultation between the people at the helm of governance and the women at the barangay (village ) level.

The project not only gained initial successes but it also gathered important lesson. For one, the institute realized that it is always important and necessary to create a mechanism that will continue the work of enabling and empowering women and to help develop women’s desk at the local level. This mechanism can be a core group which will actively follow up on the many possibilities and opportunities for engaging women on the ground to be active if not directly in politics and governance but in other activities such as protection of children and the elderly. In this way, when the project leaves the area, awareness raising will continue and women leaders and initiatives will continue to be born.

The GAD Council at the city level must have a strong link with women on the ground to be able to comprehensively monitor the situation of women and address their concerns. They can provide the expertise needed by women on the ground.

Moreover, the Institute realized that no matter how good the substance of the law is if the people on the ground were not aware that such laws exist, enforcement of good laws will always remain weak. Information and knowledge about the rights of people especially women’s rights are initial but big steps towards people’s participation and engagement.

It is also important to develop linkages and relations with partner local organizations, barangays or city officials so that the project will run smoothly and simple requests are easily granted.

The participation of men on the ground in the seminars is wanting, while the project was intended mainly for women, it would have been good to have a number of men in the seminar. In the GAD planning and budgeting, and in the Magna Carta of Women seminars, some men participated and appreciated the information and knowledge the gained.

It also can not be glossed over that women’s active participation in politics and governance will be more facilitated if their economic concerns will be addressed. Livelihood has always been a top priority concern of women on the ground.

But the most important lesson that the institute gained was the realization that women on the ground are a well of potentials that can easily be unleashed if given the opportunity to actively participate in the development of their families and communities.

As the women on the ground are clamoring for more similar trainings and seminars, the WeGovern Institute is pleased and thankful to the women on the ground, the local officials and the British Embassy for the support they have given to the project.

This article is also posted in the website of the British Embassy in Manila.