by Imee Aguillon
How can we meet when travel is limited? What is a virtual meeting? How do we open the microphone during a virtual meeting? How do we open the video to deliver updates? The signal is weak. You can’t be heard. You sound like a robot. These are just some of the things we hear today in meetings during the new normal setup. Along the way, we need to learn to adapt to continue with our daily business. We have chosen to accept the new setup to continue our desire to bring development to our community.
The Kilos Unlad Mamayan Ng Real (KUMARE) Inc., a local organization in the Municipality of Real, Quezon, is focused on women development by providing services on livelihood capital for its members, values formation, and ecological conservation efforts in the community. KUMARE was concerned that their group will not able to operate like before since a community-wide quarantine was imposed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The project Enhancing the Role of Women in Protected Area Governance for Social Change, or Women Go in short, implemented by the Haribon Foundation aims to increase the level of influence of rural women in Protected Area Governance and strengthen women’s contribution to improve community well-being.
Having a shared vision as that of the Women Go project, where women are empowered, “and where all people are equal and loved, and have access to adequate economic resources, proper health care, educational opportunities, and where the environment is cared for,” the KUMARE was determined to encourage their Board and community leaders to be a community partner of the project. They see a need for capacity development to help them have the skill set to manage and care for their environment, especially the protected area of Presidential Proclamation (PP) 1636.
To help them in their dilemma, Haribon Foundation introduced them to the wonders of technology, providing a crash course and coaching the group on how to use a virtual meeting platform to conduct their meeting. Finally, on November 8, 2020, the KUMARE Board of Directors and women leaders felt confident enough to schedule its first virtual meeting. During this meeting, the organization decided to express their commitment to be part of the Women Go project and to prepare their documents for accreditation by the Quezon Provincial Local Government Unit (PLGU), a first step in the process of becoming a member of the Protected Area Management Board and become part of a decision-making body that will manage and govern the forest of Presidential Proclamation 1636. As their Ecological Officer Ms. Ailyn Fabula expressed, “Taking care of the environment is a primary concern of the organization and we need to learn the laws in order to defend and protect our environment. The experience of our families during the big flood that devastated the municipalities of Real, Infanta and General Nakar made us realize the importance of being at the forefront of forest conservation and management.”
At the end of their organization’s first virtual meeting, the group realized the importance of learning how they can survive this pandemic by learning a new technology. Ms. Emma Ayapana, KUMARE Manager, shared that, “We need to be familiar with this new [technology] to facilitate our meetings to prevent us from getting exposed to COVID-19 but still continue our operations. We are able to thrive with a new normal setup and of course learn new skills.”
After a lot of hard work as well as coaching from a member of the Haribon team, the KUMARE was able to submit their request for accreditation to the Quezon PLGU and was duly accredited last December 2020. They are now recognized as a legitimate women-centered civil society organization operating within Quezon Province.