Transforming women leaders to decision-makers

January 28, 2022

By Amelita D. Talotalo

Rowena Recahuerta of Kalipunan ng Liping Pilipina (KALIPI) is one of many women taking a stand for our forests.

“Akala ko tama na ang malaman ang tungkol sa aking karapatan bilang babae,” (“I thought it was enough to know women rights,”) said Rowena Recahuerta, member of the Kalipunan ng Liping Pilipina (KALIPI) Federation-Infanta Chapter and considered as one of the women leaders in the locality. 

Women are usually seen on the sidelines in environmental conservation and management in the Philippines, a gap Haribon Foundation aims to address. One of the institution’s key strategies is called Community Organizing and Community Development (COCD), a tried-and-tested approach to promote community and conservation development through capacity building. Through the project “Enhancing the Role of Women in Protected Area Governance Project” funded by the European Union, Haribon is able to train and work with women leaders in Infanta, Quezon province to ensure sustainable management of the Mt. Irid-Angelo Key Biodiversity (KBA). 

Haribon identified KALIPI as a partner in fostering stewardship in Mt. Irid-Angelo. KALIPI consists of leaders from women organizations of 36 barangays in Infanta. It was difficult to shift the organization’s goals from general women concerns to environmental concerns. Their usual role in the community includes street sweeping, dancing during women’s month celebrations, and raising awareness about Violence Against Women and their Children.  

PP 1636 is a Protected Area spanning the provinces of Quezon, Rizal, Laguna, and Bulacan. n northern Quezon, PP 1636 covers three municipalities: Real, Infanta, and General. Nakar. Women GO is working with these women to highlight their role in natural resource management, which includes managing environmental risks, reducing vulnerabilities, and improving climate resiliency.

Trainings and workshops continued amid the pandemic. A participatory situational analysis was conducted to assess the environmental, economic, socio-political, and cultural situation in Barangay Magsaysay, Infanta. Rowena Recahuerta, one of the respondents, affirmed a change in perspective within the community: “Ang pagsasanay ay nakakatulong upang maintindihan ko ang sitwasyon ng komunidad at kumilos ayon sa sitwasyon. Kung hindi ko naintindihan ang sitwasyon ng ating kapaligiran, hindi ako mahihikayat na kumilos at makiisa sa pagpaplano para sa Barangay.”  (“The trainings were important for me to understand different situations happening in my community and the different actions I need to take depending on the situation. If I don’t understand what’s happening in my own backyard, I wouldn’t be motivated to act and plan for the betterment of my barangay.”) 

Edna Azogue of Barangay Cawayan was able to connect poverty brought about by the continued decrease of farm and forest harvests to the changes in climate conditions and associated environmental issues. “Dati yung pagkain namin lahat nakukuha sa gubat. Maraming isda sa ilog, prutas na kusang namumunga sa gubat, mga halamang gamot at ang malawak na kagubatan na aming libangan na may preskong hangin . Ngayon ay wala na, kunti na lang ang tubig sa ilog at hindi na ito nagbibigay ng pagkain. Wala ng isda at ang palayan na naka depende sa tubig ilog ay kaunti ang ibinibigay na harvest.” (“We were used to getting all our food from the forest. There were still many fish in the rivers, fruits that easily fall off from the trees, and medicinal herbs were abundant. The forests were our playground. It also provided clean, fresh air. Today, the rivers are shallow and dry with very few fish. The rivers were also our main source of water to irrigate farmlands.”)

These issues were highlighted in previous training activities.  

This year, KALIPI’s board of directors and officers through their president Cristina Luna was able to draft and submit a resolution requesting the Pambayang Pangulo ng Liga ng mga Barangay (PPLB) of Infanta to allocate at least Php5,000.00 funds from the Baranagay Gender and Development fund to their organization. According to Gina Rutaquio of Barangay Catambungan, the barangay captain immediately approved the resolution.  

To date, more women organizations are motivated to be involved and active in their cause. A change in mindset from being boxed in productive and reproductive roles to more community-management roles. They are now empowered to ask support from the local government to support them in their plans. Out of the 36 barangays in Infanta, 13 barangays with women organizations were able to lobby at the barangay council for fund support.  

Luna also stated that, “hindi na pwedeng hanggang sa pagsayaw na lamang kami tuwing women’s month celebration at paglinis sa mga daan kundi ay makatulong kami  masugpo ang problema na kinakaharap ng kababaihan at bayan ng Infanta. Dapat may gawin kami na mas makabuluhan sa pagsasayaw at paglilinis.”  (“We can’t be contented in dancing at women’s month celebrations or sweeping the roads. We need to do our part in solving problems within our community, especially on women’s rights. We need to do something worthwhile.”) 

Regular street clean-up drives conducted by the women of KALIPI are important for community well-being. Now they are cleaning up forest governance by giving their own unique insights on how to better manage these forests.

Recently, through KALIPI, a Gender and Development Plan and Budget was formulated and submitted to the local government amounting to Php487,500.00. Municipal mayor Filipina Grace America endorsed and approved the budget, which includes concerns related to the environment as well. This will be covered in the municipality’s internal revenue allotment for 2022. 

Infanta municipal mayor Filipina Grace America (right side) endorses more than P480,000 for a Gender and Development Plan with local women’s groups present (left side).

Women GO or “Enhancing the Role of Women in Protected Area Governance for Social Change” seeks to empower women and highlight their role not only in ensuring family and community well-being, but also in natural resource management. Learn more about Women GO here.