The theme for Earth Day 2022 is “Invest in Our Planet”, calling on people around the world to start investing in nature. The women of Kilos Unlad ng Mamamayan ng Real, Inc. or KUMARE is an example of how people, particularly women, have long been invested in the environment.
Women volunteers formed KUMARE in response to a typhoon that hit Real, Quezon in 1994. Since then, they have been active in providing formation programs, financial assistance, livelihood, as well as initiating conservation activities like tree plantings and clean-up drives.
Today, more than two decades since its foundation, KUMARE partners with the Haribon Foundation through the Enhancing the Role of Women in Protected Area Governance for Social Change (Women Go) project, funded by the European Union.
With Women Go, selected leaders of KUMARE underwent various training from developing a biodiversity-friendly enterprise to strategic planning, all of which builds on the foundations KUMARE started in the early 90s. Last February, Gender and Development training continued for the women of KUMARE, where women members learned about integrating gender in protected area management.
“Ang pinakamahalaga sa akin bilang tao ay ang ma enjoy ko ang lahat ng karapatan na dapat tinataglay ng babae at ng tao,” (The most important thing to me as a person is that I can enjoy all the rights that a woman and a man should have) shared KUMARE member Aylene Fabula during the training.
The formal title of the training is Integrating Gender and Development in PA or Protected Area Governance. It helps prepare KUMARE to achieve one of its strategic goal as well as respond to one of the goals of the Women Go project: to have one women’s group seated and engaged in a protected area management board for forest ecosystems in the Southern Sierra Madre. This protected area is called PP 1636, and is located where most of the members of KUMARE live.
By investing in the women of PP 1636, the Women Go project assists women already invested in the forests they call home. PP 1636 is also home to 15 species of amphibians, 334 bird species, 1476 fish species, 963 invertebrate species, 81 mammal species, 50 plant species, and 60 reptile species. One of the bird species is our National Bird, the Critically Endangered Philippine Eagle.
According to the IUCN’s Environment and Gender Information data, only 15% of government environmental agencies in the world were led by women.
Meanwhile studies show that including women in leadership has a positive effect on government environmental efforts, and that nations with higher proportions of women in government are more likely to ratify environmental treaties than other nations.
Working with women already invested in some of the world’s most threatened forest ecosystems is one way to achieve the goals of this year’s Earth Day, and beyond. Aylene is one of these people invested in the protected area she calls home. She adds why the trainings are important for her and fellow members of KUMARE:
“…Kilalanin at mapanlahok sa lipunan at ma empower ako at maimpower din ang iba base sa aking kaalaman at kakayahan,” (…Recognize and participate in society and be able to empower myself and others based on my knowledge and abilities.)