Yes to women’s economic empowerment, say LGUs

The thrust of the National Commission on the Role of Filipino Women (NCRFW) to create a more favorable environment for women’s economic empowerment especially in the countryside gets a thumbs-up from local government units (LGUs).

Six major provinces categorized by the National Anti-Poverty Commission,National Economic and Development Authority, and the National Nutrition Council as priority areas for hunger mitigation initiatives and considered to be the poorest in the country, have recently expressed their support for NCRFW’s Gender-Responsive Economic Actions for the Transformation of Women Project (GREAT Women Project).

“This indeed is a welcome development,” said Manuel Mejorada, Provincial Administrator of Iloilo, which is one of the project’s selected provinces. “There’s something about women entrepreneurs, they offer something very different, and if only all LGUs will provide favorable business environments for them, no Filipino family would go hungry.”

Just like Iloilo, the provinces of Ifugao, Quezon, Leyte, Bohol, and Davao del Sur were chosen as members of the second batch of LGU partners on the basis of their high potentials for development, presence of women entrepreneurs, convergence of partner-agencies, poverty level, support for gender and development, and peace and order. The first batch of LGU partners includes Naga City and eight municipalities under the Metro Naga cluster in Camarines Sur, and five municipalities under the PALMA Alliance in North Cotabato, where capacity-building efforts are now being done by NCRFW.

“Our women microenterprise operators and workers will benefit from the results of this project,” said Bohol Board Member Aster Piollo, who also chairs the provincial committee on women and family. Data from NCRFW reveal that, to date, women dominate the informal sector and most of them are engaged in microenterprises.

“Of the estimated 800,000 registered microenterprises in the country in 2004, 95% of these involve women and it’s this group of women that the GREAT Women Project is targeting,” NCRFW Chairperson Myrna T. Yao cited in a speech during the orientation of LGUs at the Manila Pavilion.

Meanwhile, NCRFW Executive Director Emmeline Verzosa cited the fact that tapping women’s huge potentials particularly in microenterpises has never been easy.

“Evolving the present status quo isn’t just like taking candy from a baby. There are existing structural and personal barriers that prevent women from meaningfully participating in and fully benefiting from the fruits of development,” she pointed out.

“Imagine if we do not tap the potentials of half our country’s human resources, how could it be possible for us to achieve full national development?”

With support from the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), the GREAT Women Project is a five-year initiative that aims to create a “gender-responsive enabling environment” at both national and local levels for women microentrepreneurs by bringing them closer to such services and facilities as skills training, microfinance, market linkaging, business development and management, social protection, and other forms of support.

According to Yao, policies and programs are deemed gender-responsive when they incorporate or address concerns of both women and men to reduce inequalities between them, and to allow both to contribute to and benefit from development.

“Gender-responsive policies and programs will mitigate the burdens of poverty on women, who usually bear these burdens in a more intense way since they have to perform their home and family care obligations alongside their economic endeavors, which is true for both women entrepreneurs and workers,” she added.

Overcoming poverty, Yao explained, is not just a matter of creating jobs and enterprises, increasing incomes, graduating from micro to small enterprises. “It’s really about changing women’s lives and the lives of their families. We want to see women articulating their needs and interests as microentrepreneurs and workers in microenterprises, taking active roles in decision-making at the household, enterprise and community levels, and accessing and controlling productive resources towards high-value economic activities,” she said. “Let’s face it — poverty has a woman’s face,” Chairperson Yao declared. “And while the government cannot make poverty disappear as if it had a magic wand, it will try to reduce it and make it genderless.” by CJ Panila.