PCW gears up for Safe Spaces Caravan in Cagayan de Oro City

The Philippine Commission on Women sustains its efforts to help strengthen the implementation of Republic Act 11313 or the Safe Spaces Act by staging ten (10) Safe Spaces Caravan sessions in Northern Mindanao.

PCW Executive Director Atty. Kristine Rosary Yuzon-Chaves shares that (1) this aims to amplify the capacity of local officials and service providers in handling cases of sexual harassment in a victim-centered manner, and (2) raise awareness that with the Safe Spaces Act, catcalling women, sexist and homophobic remarks and sexual innuendos committed in person or online are already punishable offenses.

The caravans will also feature online training as may be needed by other local government units or their barangays.

Atty Kay Lazarito-Calingin, PCW Chief and Development (GAD) Specialist of the PCW-North Mindanao Field Office (PCW-NMFO) hopes that these trainings will aid in establishing Anti-Sexual Harassment (ASH) desks in the barangays.

“One of the objectives of the training is to encourage barangays to create Anti-Sexual Harassment (ASH) Desks, possibly to be combined with the Anti-Violence Against Women (Anti-VAW) Desks that have already been set up,” she said.

To begin the ground work, ED Yuzon-Chaves met with two of Cagayan de Oro City’s strong women’s advocates, Councilors Girlie Balaba and Edna Dahino.

Councilor Edna Dahino, who also sits as the Chairperson of the Committee on Women and Family, highlights the importance of ensuring the budget for the ASH and Anti-VAW desks’ operations. “We have to provide budgets for these desks to operate so there can be real implementation of the law,” Councilor Dahino stressed.

Co-Chairperson Councilor Balaba welcomed the plan to bring the SSA Caravan to CDO so non-binaries such as the members of the LGBTQI community can also benefit from safer public spaces where they will not experience gender-based sexual harassment.. “LGBTQIs have been enduring homophobic remarks so we really have to address this now that we have a strong law in the Safe Spaces Act,” Councilor Balaba enthused.

CDO barangays that will receive SSA training will be lined up by the City Social Welfare and Development Office (CSWDO). Some will receive in-person training and others will participate online training via Zoom.

Concluding the meeting, ED Chaves emphasized the critical and urgent need to capacitate the barangays to implement the SSA so all public and online spaces can be safe for women, girls and everyone who have been enduring sexual harassment almost every day. It is hoped that with the increased awareness on the SSA, sexual harassment cases will be significantly reduced cease,” ED Chaves said.

The SSA Caravan will be implemented by the PCW-NMFO in cooperation with selected local government units in Northern Mindanao, including CDO.

The Philippine Commission on Women is gearing towards the establishment of regional cluster field offices, beginning with the piloting of its North Mindanao Field Office (NMFO). Based in Cagayan de Oro City, the NMFO was established in August 2021 and covers the geographical area of Region 9 (Zamboanga Peninsula), Region 10 (Northern Mindanao), and Region 13 (Caraga). The field office, with its closer coordination with subnational level, aims to localize the Magna Carta of Women through influencing the gender responsiveness of and providing GAD-related technical assistance to regional line agencies and LGUs. Stakeholders in these regions may reach them through email: mindanaofo@pcw.gov.ph. The North Mindanao field office is located at Unit 206, Tomas Saco Scapes, Tomas Saco Street, Cagayan de Oro City.