First “Gender Equality Advocates” graduated

Franmarie Catague, one of the graduates from We Effect’s new gender equality advocacy program.

15 pioneering Filipino activists have graduated from We Effect’s new trainers programme, “Advocating for Gender Equality”. Their mission is now to push for greater gender equality in the Philippines – in communities, board rooms and halls of congress.

We Effect supports rooted advocacy. This means that We Effect supports partner organisations to develop their own advocacy capacity and that We Effect will plan and design its own advocacy actions to support the voice of partner organisations.

For several months, mainly online, the course participants worked as a team to improve and enhance their knowledge on advocating for gender equality, and to understand its importance for sustainable development.

One of the graduates, Adelline Agbulos, points out that Philippines has many laws and agencies bound to protect and uphold the rights of women and girls, but discrimination and violence persist.

– A law doesn’t equate to the freedom of women. Philippines is considered successful in attaining gender equality, but this country has a long way to go. Advocating is a useful method to ensure that women one day will have the same basic rights and opportunities as men, says graduate, Adelline Agbulos, who works for the policy organisation PLCPD in the Philippines.

Adelline Agbulos explains that advocacy for gender equality needs to be undertaken at all levels of society.

– Since most of the highest positions belong to men, we try to engage with as many women policy makers as we can. At the same time, stereotypes are most likely to happen within rural communities. Many says men should farm and women should be left at home, because they are not physically capable of farming. We encourage women leaders to attend our trainings to end that stereotype. But, I think it is as important to advocate within our own family. Some people tend to keep their advocacy work within their work only.

Course graduate Christian Cañete, who works at the farmer’s organisation Farmcoop, seconds that challenging attitudes and norms in rural communities is key for achieving gender equality.

– One of the communities that we work with is the Bagobo-Tagabawa tribe, they have a strong patriarchal tradition. There, we share our knowledge and promote that gender equality is one of the key factors to achieve holistic societal change and transformation for all.

Christian says there are a lot of ways that advocacy can be used to further improve gender equality in the Philippines.

Alvin and Abby Masicampo challenging gender norms in the Bagobo-Tagabawa tribe.

– Through advocacy we can raise significant issues and open up spaces for public argumentation to give voice to misrepresented citizens. But we can also build public trust and bring change in the public’s attitudes to the role of women and men in the society.

Many course participants have already started to implement their new learnings from the course.

– The biggest take-away from the course was translating the learning experience into action, explains Franmarie Catague, who works for housing organisation JF Ledesma.

Along with her colleagues, she launched a major gender advocacy activity immediately after the course.

– We have drafted a plan to support a Muslim-Christian Women Homeowners Association in Mindanao to get funding for a housing project.

The plan is to make authorities pass a financing policy where the all-female housing association will only pay interest on their loans and start amortization payments after 8 to 10 years.  The  members were all displaced by Tropical Cyclon name Washi the and post-Marawi-war devastation.

– If we can make this happen, that would be an acceptable level of affordability for the women in the organisation, and one important step closer to adequate housing for them and their families.

The building of houses for Muslim-Christian Women Cooperative Housing HOA will be implemented utilizing the methodology Public-Private-People Partnership (PPPP) Framework.  On the public sector-level, the Local Government of Cagayan De Oro has already committed substantial funds for land development and provision of facilities such as electricity, water and drainage system.

The course “Advocating for Gender Equality” is developed and facilitated by We Effect’s regional office in Asia, and will also be rolled out in Sri Lanka and Palestine later this year.

Text: Marcus Lundstedt, course facilitator