Women Protecting PP 1636
In PP 1636, rural women traditionally bear the nurturing role in their families, making sure that they have enough daily provisions of food, fuel, and water, most, if not all of which are ecological services provided by forests. In addition, they have great influence in informal structures within their families and local communities or barangays. Women’s impact to and relationship with forests therefore make their participation in discussions and decisions involving the management of forests vital in creating inclusive environmental plans.
As major users of forest and natural resources, their opinions play a crucial role in managing environmental risks and climate change impacts, as well as sustaining the ecosystems providing for the daily needs of their families and communities. When women have limited access to decision-making bodies, in this case, the PAMB of PP 1636, it poses a greater risk to them when plans relevant to their homes or the forests of Sierra Madre are made without their input. Currently, there is still no women’s group that is a member of the management board, even though civil society participation in PA governance is enshrined in the National Integrated Protected Areas System (NIPAS) Act of 1992 or Republic Act 7586
, where eligible organizations are allowed to be members of the PAMB.
At the beginning of the Women Go project in 2019, the team saw the need for gender mainstreaming activities to set the mood and encourage mindsets that accept and embrace the active participation of women in three levels: family, community, barangay (village), and the PAMB.
Women Ready to Act
For HARIBON, choosing beneficiaries for projects is no easy task. A guidepost in formation of People’s Organizations (POs) in community organizing is to target existing ones within key biodiversity areas (KBA)
as partners, instead of choosing those outside the project site. HARIBON's first intervention is raising the awareness of its partners providing transformative learning programs on biodiversity conservation among potential partners, as well as its key stakeholders. An Organizational Capacity Assessment (OCA) tool was used prior to alignment to initially assess and measure the management capacity or preparedness of a community organization.
An Organizational Capacity Assessment (OCA) tool was used prior to alignment to initially assess and measure the management capacity or preparedness of a community organization.
The Women Go team performed a Participatory Situational Analysis (PSA) for stakeholders, which revealed that there are existing women organizations within PP 1636, namely Kalipunan ng Liping Pilipina (KALIPI) and Kilos Unlad ng Mamayan ng Real, Inc. (KUMARE). They fit the criteria of organizations ready to partner with the project.
The Protected Area of PP 1636
Choosing PP 1636 as a project site had both been a strategic and a vital move for HARIBON and the Women Go project because of it being a part of the Sierra Madre Mountain Range, known as the backbone of Luzon with vast stretches of mountains spanning more than 500 km within the provinces of Quezon, Rizal, Laguna, and Bulacan. Some Filipinos would describe the mountain range as a mother and protector
, a home to both people and wildlife uniquely found in the Philippines such as the Philippine Eagle, the Philippine Brown Deer, the White Lauan, and the Tayabak (commonly known as the Jade Vine). It is a portion of the Mounts Irid-Angilo and Binuang KBA, which has already been declared a protected area (PA) in Presidential Proclamation No. 1636. The project’s sites, the REINA area, are within it and unfortunately, only a portion of the entire KBA or PA of PP 1636 has been legislated. HARIBON firmly believes that women can greatly influence the protection and conservation of PP 1636, particularly by lobbying for the legislation of the entire site as a protected area due to their connection with the mountain and its ecological services.
Women Go selected the site as well because of the presence of the local government units (LGUs) and their wider authority over PP 1636 governance. HARIBON’s existing relationship with the local government was a determining factor as HARIBON already worked with General Nakar during its Governance and Local Development of Endangered Forests in the Philippines (GOLDEN Forests) project from 2005 to 2010. The REINA areas contain the entrance and exit points of people doing illegal activities in the Sierra Madre Mountain Range. HARIBON wanted to support in raising the awareness and enhancing the capacity of local communities in forest management and practices to put less strain on the forests brought on by human activities.
The foundation saw the opportunity to work in PP 1636 because of its engagements and initial relationships with the communities of REINA. The LGUs and communities situated there are the right institutions to govern over the PA and considerably, the local governments are already cooperative and supportive of conservation initiatives at the site. An example is the municipalities of Infanta and Nakar having their own Forest Land Use Plan (FLUP) through the facilitation of HARIBON from past project engagements. In addition, HARIBON is also members of major networks focused on protecting the site, such as the Save Sierra Madre Network.
Stronger Together (The REINA Alliance)
One of the key outcomes and proof of success to the sustainability of the Women Go project is the formation of the REINA Alliance in October 2023. This welcome development is an offshoot of HARIBON’s organizing activities with KALIPI and KUMARE, a part of Women Go’s project phase-out plan where a Sustainability Planning workshop was conducted on October 4-5, 2023. All women organizations of Real, Infanta and Nakar, and the LGU key departments and focal persons came together to advocate for women’s agenda in REINA as a united front – a first of its kind, a strong alliance on environmental governance.
Attendees of the workshop were:
Local Government Unit (LGU)
LGU Key Departments
- Municipal Social Welfare and Development Office (MSWDO)
- Municipal Gender and Development Office (MGADO)
- Municipal Environment and Natural Resources Office (MENRO)
- KALIPI Tanauan
- KALIPI Cawayan
- KALIPI Real Federation
- KALIPI Infanta Federation
- KALIPI Gumian
- KALIPI Magsaysay
General Nakar LGU
- KALIPI Cablao
- KALIPI General Nakar Federation
Why is this alliance important to conservation?
During the workshop, a proposal came forth that to sustain the impacts of the Women Go project, there must be a single organizing body dedicated on focusing on women’s issues in REINA. As they made plans for sustaining women’s activities, Real’s MGAD focal person suggested to form one alliance for all women in the REINA municipalities. On October 13, 2023, a REINA-wide alliance planning took place, and all attendees agreed to organize all women on the municipal level and create officers for the alliance. Each officer would represent each municipality. Such an outcome is essential for several reasons, including the sustainability of the project’s impacts and women-led activities shedding light on women’s issues, and the continuity of programs on environmental management. There is also a better chance for the women to be heard because their voices are stronger together.
How will it affect environmental governance?
The REINA Alliance already has plans of bringing up the group to the national level with the Local Development Council of Women (LDCW). The council currently being formed is mandated by the Municipal Social Welfare and Development (MSWD) requiring all women organizations to be federated at the municipal level. With this outcome, the alliance already exists at the municipal level in REINA. When successful, the move would give the REINA Alliance access to national funding, which is larger than their current level of funding, thereby giving them more funds to initiate new projects and continue existing ones.
The lives of REINA women and the protected area of PP 1636 are interwoven. The relationship that they have with the forests of Sierra Madre go beyond the surface. Through HARIBON’s Women Go project, like true biodiversity champions, these women were able to recognize the importance of caring for their home – the planet and its biodiversity. They inspired each other and their surrounding communities as they made invaluable contributions in leading sustainable programs on Climate Change Adaptation (CCA), Ecosystem-based Disaster Risk Reduction (Eco-DRR) and livelihood. Such commitment and care towards conserving the environment is not only because of their livelihoods depending on nature, it is rooted in love
We are all interconnected. Similar with the women of PP 1636, we all depend on natural resources found in our mountains for survival. For Luzon, majority of this comes from the Sierra Madre Mountain Ranges, wherein the forests of PP 1636 lie. When we protect and support the people living in forestlands, we protect ourselves. At the same time, we effectively and more sustainably protect the ecosystems that give us life. As HARIBON transformed the minds and hearts of the women in REINA, the change rooted deeper.
The Women Go project is made possible by the European Union
in the Philippines, with the support of the Municipality of Real, Municipality of Infanta, Municipality of General Nakar, and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources - Community Environment & Natural Resources Office (DENR-CENRO) Real.