LGUs taking the lead in building a Gender-Responsive Bagong Pilipinas

Recognized as the Official Awards and Incentive System or GADtimpala for Local Government Units (LGUs), the Philippine Commission on Women, through its Local GAD Resource Program (LGRP), has developed the Gender and Development (GAD) Local Learning Hub (LLH) as a certification program for LGUs. Its objective is to institutionalize the sharing and replication of local experiences while showcasing GAD-related innovations, thereby enabling LGUs to initiate and strengthen their gender mainstreaming efforts.

Three years following the successful virtual GAD Local Learning Hub (LLH) Assembly, the PCW organized its second iteration in a face-to-face setting from April 17-19, 2024, at Sequoia Hotel in Parañaque City. The assembly served as a platform to share notable best practices of LGUs, certify the third batch of GAD LLHs, recertify LLHs with sustainable GAD efforts, and officially launch the PCW’s GAD LLH video.

(From L to R) Mr. Macario Jusayan, Ms. Honey Castro, Ms. Maria Kristine Josefina Balmes, Ms. Catalina “Baby” Leonen-Pizarro, DILG Assistant Secretary Lilian De Leon, PCW OIC Khay Ann Magundayao-Borlado, Ms. Nharleen Santos-Millar, Ms. Anita Baleda, and Ms. Vicky Atanacio

Centered on empowering LGUs to serve as drivers of innovation and change for gender equality, the assembly revolved around the theme “Empowering Local Government Units as Catalysts for Change towards a Gender-Responsive Bagong Pilipinas!” This underscored the significance of making gender mainstreaming effective at the grassroots level.

The assembly was attended by officials from PCW, technical officers, representatives from DILG, delegates from 17 LGUs, and 34 distinguished GAD programs. The event was further enriched by a cultural presentation from the Philippine Baranggay Folk Dance Troupe.

The first day of the assembly was dedicated to recognizing the LGUs that continuously make great strides in initiating activities for gender mainstreaming at the grassroots level.

In her welcome remarks, PCW Officer-in-Charge, Atty. Khay Ann C. Magundayao-Borlado, emphasized the importance of empowering LGUs to serve as catalysts for innovation and change in achieving gender equality.

“Anchoring on this administration’s battle cry of Bagong Pilipinas, we hope that LGUs shall prioritize inclusivity, equity, and gender-responsiveness. With our mandate of localizing the Magna Carta of Women, our focus as the national machinery on gender equality and women’s empowerment is to empower LGUs to be catalysts for innovation and change for gender equality. Strengthening the commitment to gender-responsive local governance is key to realizing our vision of a progressive and sustainable nation,” Atty. Borlado said.

To showcase his pride in the achievements of the LGUs, DILG Secretary Benhur Abalos, Jr. conveyed his message through Ms. Lilian M. De Leon, DILG Assistant Secretary for International Relations. She shared the Department’s initiatives in supporting the LGUs with their commendable activities and highlighted the importance of collaboration between LGUs and the DILG in advancing gender equality and inclusive governance.

“As more LGUs become GAD LLHs, we can be assured that the gender-differentiated needs and interests of Juan and Juana will become central to the promotion of people’s general welfare. Let us continue to work hand-in-hand in building a nation that allows women to find their voice and participate meaningfully in governance and decision-making,” she added.

In recognition of the city’s successful management and implementation of two pivotal programs—the Barangay Management Information System (BMIS) and the Women Economic Empowerment (WEE) initiative—the City of Baybay, Leyte, has been recertified as a GAD LLH. City Mayor, Hon. Jose Carlos Cari, expresses his gratitude to the PCW for empowering them through the award, stating, “As you empower us, we also empower other local government units, and our neighboring municipalities are already establishing their own information systems. This award encourages us to do more and be better.” He also extends the award to their city’s GAD Officers.

Naga City’s Bantay Familia, Barangay Grow Negosyo Program, and Breastfeeding Program have also been recertified for their role in enhancing collaboration and convergence among local mechanisms. Hon. Cecilia B. Veluz-De Asis, Naga City Vice Mayor, expressed, “Through this award, we feel that our volunteerism are more than compensated for the limited resources we have to work within ensuring that services and protection are bound to our constituents.”

The Quezon City Government is also eligible for recertification for its initiatives such as the Social Hygiene and Sundown Clinics and the Quezon City Protection Center. Moreover,  new programs have been introduced to ensure accessible, safe, and secure supplies of pasteurized human milk through the “Human Milk Bank” and ensure support for women deprived of liberty via its “No Woman Left Behind Program”. “This recognition will be our driving force and source of inspiration to expand our efforts towards fostering a more gender-responsive and proactive approach to local governance. By strengthening our commitment to empower women, marginalized sector, we paved the way for a more equitable and vibrant society,” Dr. Josephine Sabando, Quezon City General Hospital Director, stated.

With Davao City’s Magnegosyo ‘Ta Day program and the Protection on Sexual Exploitation, Abuse, and Discrimination Program, the city has been recertified as a GAD LLH. Sharing his vision for enhancing gender-response systems, Davao City Mayor, Hon. Sebastian Z. Duterte, through City Councilor, Hon. Trisha Ann Jasmin Villafuerte, stated, “As we continue to thrive in empowering our local government unit to enhance gender-responsive systems, we are amplifying the voice of the most vulnerable creating sustainable communities. With this effort, we are transformed into an inclusive, equitable community that contributes to the city’s advancement.”

Mabalacat City has earned certification for its pioneering initiative in establishing the Population, Gender and Development Office (POPGAD), a dedicated entity committed to spearheading and sustaining gender mainstreaming initiatives. Hon. Crisostomo Garbo, Mayor of Mabalacat City, reaffirms his commitment to advancing the city’s journey towards inclusivity and gender responsiveness. “As we move forward, let us renew our commitment to fostering vigor and unity, paving the way for a more inclusive and gender-responsive Mabalacat City,” he stated.

The assembly also extended a warm welcome to the third batch of GAD LLHs, whose exemplary dedication to gender mainstreaming has been truly commendable in their respective localities. Out of 53 applicants, only six (6) LGUs have earned certification for their remarkable endeavors.

In recognition of its coordinated community-wide approach in addressing gender-based violence (GBV) against women and children, the Municipality of Bagumbayan, Sultan Kudarat, has been certified through its Balay Dalangpan Center. During her acceptance speech, City Mayor Hon. Jonalette De Pedro shared the inspiring story behind the establishment of the Balay Dalangpan Center and its profound impact on their community. She emphasized that this achievement reflects the municipality’s steadfast commitment to supporting those in need, highlighting the collective effort required to make a meaningful difference.

Muntinlupa City has achieved GAD LLH certification for its Saklolo at Gabay ng Ina at Pamilya (SAGIP) Program, alongside its Sentro ng Aruga para sa Kababaihan (SAK) initiative. Hon. Rozanno Rufino Biazon, Mayor of Muntinlupa City, expressed that they consider the award not only as recognition but also as a responsibility. “It is now up to us to share it with others. If ever there is something we can share with others, we would warmly welcome it. Because that is the responsibility we now have,” he emphasized.

The City of Santiago, Isabela, is also certified for its initiatives like the Samahan ng Teenage Nanay na Dakila (STAND) and Santiago City Health Office HIV/AIDS Action Team (SCHOHAT). Hon. Cassandra Eunice Sable, City Councilor, underscored the paramount significance of the lives impacted by their initiatives, stating, “Whether it’s a teenager making informed choices about their sexual health, or someone dealing with HIV/AIDS receiving the care and support they deserve, it is their resilience and courage that inspire us to continue with our mission.”

Similarly, this sentiment resonates with Talisay City, Cebu Mayor, Hon. Gerald Anthony V. Gullas, Jr., whose Women and Child Development Center became the key for the city to be GAD LLH Certified. “At the end of the day, the most important thing is we show to our constituents that the City Government has a heart for all of them, under a gender-responsive governance,” he stated.

PCW also certified the Province of Bulacan for its notable programs, namely the GAD Monitoring and Evaluation Team and the Panlalawigang Komisyon para sa Kababaihan ng Bulacan. Stressing the importance of women’s values and drawing inspiration from Dr. Jose Rizal’s letter to the young women of Malolos, Provincial Administrator Ms. Antonette Constantino reminded, “We are now living in a borderless world wherein we encounter so many problems brought about by modernism and technology. We are bouncing back to who we have always been, and that is the family of Filipinos where women are held in their rightful place of dignity in society.”

Reiterating their province’s dedication to advancing gender equality and empowering their communities, Ms. Flordeliza G. Moldero, Provincial Planning and Development Coordinator and Provincial GFPS Focal Person of the Province of Kalinga, which has been certified for its Kalinga Livelihood Assistance to Qualified Women’s Organization, says, “As we move forward, rest assured that the Provincial Government of Kalinga remains steadfast in its commitment to the sustainability and further enhancement of the GAD LLH Program.”

PCW extends its heartfelt commendation to the awardees and hopes that this recognition will serve as a catalyst for igniting even greater passion in the creation of gender-responsive programs. The certified GAD LLH term will be from 2024 to 2027.

Implementers and proponents exchanged noteworthy best practices and experiences in managing gender-responsive programs and services at the local level. During the first plenary, which focused on the notable practices of LGUs in combating GBV, some LGUs underscored the critical importance of integrating policy changes and innovation into their manual of operations. The strength of implementation also relies on conducting gender sensitivity training for employees and staff handling such cases, enhancing their paralegal knowledge and understanding of relevant laws. Furthermore, certain LGUs highlighted the significance of establishing a robust referral system for Violence Against Women (VAW) officers, essential for ensuring prompt and efficient responses to incidents.

Ms. Nharleen Santos-Millar served as the moderator for the open forum after the presentations of GAD LLH’s Best Practices by representatives from Municipality of Bagumbayan, Sultan Kudarat, Muntinlupa City, City of Talisay, City of Naga, City of Davao, and Quezon City.

The presence of a VAW/GBV hotline or dedicated mobile number, along with comprehensive manuals and protocols, proves invaluable, as well as sufficient funding. LGUs with in-house databases underscored the vital role they play in tracking VAWC/GBV cases and service provision. DSWD accreditation for facilities is also deemed indispensable. While internet connectivity is not a concern due to the use of offline forms in the system, safeguarding client privacy and case confidentiality remains essential. Some participants advocate for larger office spaces to accommodate more service recipients, while others highlight the benefits of house-to-house visits for after-care services for victim-survivors of GBV/VAWC. Additionally, programs tailored for perpetrators contribute to a comprehensive approach, while inter-barangay sharing of good practices fosters program sustainability.

Representatives from Province of Kalinga, City of Baybay, Leyte, and Province of Iloilo during the Open Forum of the 2nd plenary presentations.

During the 2nd Plenary, under the sub-theme “SHE Can and SHE Will: Advancing Women’s Economic Empowerment (WEE) at the Local Level,” GAD LLH Representatives emphasized that funding GAD LLH initiatives through the use of the GAD budget remains the most critical factor for their implementation. Such programs effectively reach women from marginalized groups and help address the limited employment opportunities for women in their communities. Utilizing barangay information systems and providing staff training for this purpose are also seen as beneficial strategies.

The plenary also emphasized the support required from the national government, including the maintenance of partnerships and collaborations with key agencies, which are crucial for the harmonious implementation of programs. While these practices continually raise awareness on gender equality and empower women within their traditional and cultural norms, implementers still encounter challenges along the way. One presenter highlighted that traditional norms remain prevalent, indicating that there is still considerable progress needed in terms of GAD awareness. Additionally, there is a need to monitor the social protection services provided to participants.

Representatives from Province of Bulacan, City of Santiago, Isabela, and City of Mabalacat, Pampanga during the Open Forum of the 3rd plenary presentations.

On “Intensifying GAD Mechanisms: Shaping the Local Landscape of Gender Mainstreaming,” representatives at the third plenary discussion acknowledged the myriad challenges implementers face in their ongoing work. Despite this, they underscored the importance of understanding one’s purpose and learning from each other’s experiences, particularly from co-awardees. They stressed that people should recognize that GAD is not merely an add-on task but rather a benefit gained by the entire community. They also emphasized the necessity of stronger policies as a basis for creating initiatives and systems for better implementation.

Overall, LGUs expressed that this assembly not only allowed them to showcase their best practices but also facilitated meaningful communication with fellow implementers, which will aid in furthering their shared goal of gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls.