Real Life Heroes: Rural Women for Community Resilience

Gemma Andot is a women’s leader in the MADADMA Community, part of the Obo Manobo indigenous group. Since 2020, she has been an active volunteer of Action Against Hunger in promoting community resilience through the ECHO-funded MOVE UP project.

This International Day of Rural Women, we highlight and celebrate women like Gemma. Get to know her and how she engages and inspires her community in Ilomavis, Kidapawan City towards resilience.

How long have you been working as a humanitarian worker (volunteer)?

“Since 2012, isa na akong aktibong IP Community member na aktibong sumasali at nagsasagawa ng pagtulong, pagvovolunteer sa pagpreserve ng aming kultura at kapaligiran. Sa tuwing may mga NGO na dumarating dito, nagvovolunteer ako lagi.”

Since 2012, I have been an active IP Community member actively participating and helping─volunteering to preserve our culture and environment. Whenever NGOs come here, I always volunteer.

What motivates you to continue volunteering?

“Naiintindihan ko kasi ang hangarin at adbokasiya ng Urban Resilience lalo na sa usapin ng pagse-savings. Gusto ko maging involved sa paghahanda ng community kapag may dumating man na sakuna.”

[I understand the desire and advocacy of urban resilience, especially in the matter of savings. I want to be involved in making sure that my community is prepared if a disaster is to come.]

Why are you making this sacrifice?

“Hindi ko na iniisip ang sakripisyo, nakatingin nalang ako sa hinahanarap at sa magandang maaring maging resulta ng pag-sesave.”

[I don’t think about the sacrifices anymore, I just look at the future and the good that can be the result of having savings.]

What have been the challenges to your work?

“Minsan kailangan hatiin ang panahon ko para sa pamilya, negosyo, at community work, pero kaya naman kasi nandiyan naman palagi ang Action Against Hunger na kaagapay lalo na sa community.”

[Sometimes I need to divide my time between family, business, and community work─ but I’m able to do it because Action Against Hunger has been supporting us in the community.]

What motivates you to keep doing your work even these challenges?

“Nakikita ko kasi na balang araw ang mga kapwa ko IP ay magiging mas resilient kami kapag lahat kami naisabuhay ang pagsesavings.”

Seeing that one day, my fellow IPs will be more resilient when we all start having savings [motivates me].

What are you most proud of?

“Na dati nagsimula lang kami sa Agoho Community Savings Group. Ngayon, isa na kaming federation sa Kidapawan. Magpaparegister na din kami sa DOLE at SEC sa tulong ng Action Against Hunger at Public Employment Service Office ng LGU Kidapawan.”

Previously we just started with Agoho Community Savings Group. Now, we are a federation in Kidapawan. We will also register with the Department of Labor and Employment, and the Securities & Exchange Commission with the help of Action Against Hunger and the Public Employment Service Office of LGU Kidapawan.

How can you engage the youth in your line of work?

“Kami na mga magulang ay nagsesavings. Sana itong mga kabataan ay makita nila kami bilang magandang ehemplo. Sila na rin ay nagsesavings gaya namin kaya ebidensya ito na naiimpluwensyahan namin sila.”

[We parents are having savings. I hope these young people can see us as a good example. They are also saving like us, so this is evidence that we influence them.]

Read more about Gemma’s work the Pines (Agoho) Community Savings Group

Moving Urban Poor Communities Towards Resilience (MOVE UP 4) is a consortium project that offers durable solutions in terms of capacitating local governments and communities in mitigating the adverse socio-economic effects of disasters. With funding from the European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid, MOVE UP 4 was implemented by Action Against HungerPlan InternationalCARE Philippines, and ACCORD Incorporated.

International Day of Rural Women

Over the last century, the world’s population has steadily shifted from leading a rural existence to living in urban settings. Yet a vast amount of people (approximately 3.4 billion) are still living in rural areas. These rural communities are often characterized by limited access to resources, lower standards of living and generally high levels of poverty.

In the Philippines, around 2 million women work in rural industries including agriculture, fishing and mining. Yet land ownership for women remains low at around 10%. Women play a vital part in rural cultivation within the country yet are rarely the beneficiaries. To this end, significant land reform in accordance with gender transformative measures is required to address the situation.

Action Against Hunger has engaged with several projects across the Philippines to address the issues surrounding gender in rural communities. Specific focus has been placed on influencing household decision-making and ensuring gender is integrated into existing food security & livelihoods programming.

Read more

Promoting inclusive household decision-making to empower rural women

MINDANAO — Women and girls in rural communities have been providing invaluable contributions in development, particularly towards nutrition, food security, and building climate resilience. However, gender and development indicators have consistently shown that rural women and girls are generally more vulnerable to poverty and the impacts of climate change as compared to rural men and women in urban communities.

In 2019, Action Against Hunger Philippines with the guidance of our International Gender Desk conducted a gender analysis within our partner communities at the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (BARMM). The results of the analysis showed that roles in Mindanao seem to have changed from traditionally assigned gender roles and responsibilities, with women now being more involved in productive activities. However, this does not seem to have reduced the allotted time women dedicate to reproductive work. With women spending more time on productive tasks, but not less reproductive ones, a significant increase in their overall workload was noted.

Door-to-door nutrition and hygiene promotion sessions in Lanao Del Sur | Photo by Theresa Cortes for Action Against Hunger (Lanao del Sur, Philippines © 2020)

The gender analysis also noted that although both women and men participate in income-generating activities and decide together on some key issues, key decisions like mobility, heritage, what specific work is assigned to each person, and the use of family land, etc. still fall under the decision of men. Evidently, this is one of the factors barring women’s access to income-generating activities since farming is considered the region’s main source of income. Agricultural labor like tending to the fields is mainly considered as the responsibility of men. Therefore, it comes with no surprise that men also present the highest percentages of agriculture knowledge.

Because of our commitment to mainstream gender equality in all our programs, we are aiming to maximize project outcomes while promoting gender empowerment. To do this, we plan to integrate interventions that are influencing household decision-making into existing food security & livelihoods programming.

HHDM Session in Calanogas facilitated by the project team | Photo by DRR-BHA Project Team for Action Against Hunger (Calanogas, Philippines © 2021)

Household decision-making impacts child health and nutrition in multiple ways. It influences underlying causes of undernutrition: decisions related to household production, household consumption, and caregiving practices. Household decision-making can also lead to improvements in women’s mobility; control of own time and income; men’s trust, confidence, and respect for women; women’s own self-confidence; and the sharing of household chores.

Photo by Rosa May Maitem for Action Against Hunger (Maguindanao, Philippines © 2013)

Using the Household Decision-Making (HHDM) Approach, we aim to shift household behaviors regarding decision-making and distribution of household work by spotlighting the work performed by women at reproductive and productive levels and adding more value to their contributions. The HHDM approach will hopefully encourage family members to contribute equitably—allowing each member to learn, cope, adapt and transform in the face of shocks and stresses and therefore increase household and community resilience in the long run.

“This innovative approach will enhance our FSL strategies making it more inclusive and gender transformative,” – Menchie Lacson

The HHDM approach is based on the household dialogue toolkit developed by Mercy Corps, which we’ve adapted appropriately to the context of Filipino communities, particularly in Mindanao. This was made possible through the support and guidance of Bishnu Bahadur Khatri, a seasoned international expert, and researcher on household dialogue along with human rights, child rights, social inclusion, gender-based violence, climate change, and gender equality among many others.

HHDM Session in Calanogas facilitated by the project team | Photo by DRR-BHA Project Team for Action Against Hunger (Calanogas, Philippines © 2021)

A Household Decision Making Approach Facilitator Guidebook is currently in the works, which we will be piloting through our USAID-funded disaster risk reduction project. In the meantime, the HHDM approach nonetheless has since been implemented following an online ‘training of trainers’ (ToT) on Family and Household Dialogue. The five-day training was facilitated by Bishnu Khatri last from April 8-12, 2021 and was participated by Action Against Hunger staff from the Philippines’ Manila head office, Cotabato field office, and international headquarters.

Action Against Hunger staff with Bishnu Khatri (top-right) during the last day of the HHD Training (April 12, 2021)

“This innovative approach will enhance our FSL strategies making it more inclusive and gender transformative, [We’re] grateful for your generosity in sharing your knowledge and expertise on this approach Bishnu,” says Menchie Lacson, the Food Security & Livelihoods (FSL) Coordinator and selected Gender Champion for Action Against Hunger Philippine Mission.

As we push for long-term development, we are hopeful that more women and girls in rural communities will have active involvement in decision-making and community participation through effective and inclusive household dialogues.

‘Strengthening Local Resilience and Building Capacities in Area at High Risk of Natural Hazards in BARMM, Mindanao’ is a disaster risk reduction (DRR) project funded by the United States Agency for International Development’s Bureau for Humanitarian Assistance (USAID-BHA) and implemented by Action Against Hunger.

Written by Joyce Sandajan Read more