Representation and Participation of Rural Women in Governance and Implementation of Gender and Development

*This is an excerpt from PKKK’s Rural Women Status Report on CEDAW 2011.

The Magna Carta of Women is framed in the context of CEDAW. It defines Gender and Development (GAD) as development perspective and process that are participatory and empowering, equitable, sustainable, free from violence, respectful of human rights, supportive of self determination and actualization of human potentials. It seeks to achieve gender equality as a fundamental value that should be reflected in development choices; seeks to transform society’s social, economic, and political structures and questions the validity of gender roles they ascribed to women and men; contends that women are active agents of development and not just passive recipients of development assistance; and stresses the need of women to organize themselves and participate in political processes to strengthen their legal rights.

There are several laws pro-actively promoting and protecting the rights of women. And yet, women’s important role and contribution in development and nation building are not yet fully recognized. Rural women are often treated at the sidelines. Their representation and participation in different local development councils and special bodies has been dismal. PKKK  cited several factors contributing to gender inequality in governance and participation: (1) the traditional notion that women’s role is always in the house, still proliferates in rural communities; (2) women commonly exhibit low confidence and self-esteem because the society considered them inferior in terms of decision-making, or being discouraged and prevented by their husbands or fathers from joining organizations or any political undertaking; (3) lack of information on CEDAW, law on gender equality, programs, resources and services not only of rural women but also local government officials and policy implementers; (4) men still dominate in the elective positions and leadership structure; (5) women’s participation in local elections are often impeded by traditional politics and  non-accreditation due to inconsistent processes/guidelines rigid requirements.

The following are some of PKKK’s gender inequality experiences:

  • In Bukidnon, women are marginalized in their community due to lack of information on where and how to access resources and services. Inferiority complex is also common that deterred many rural women to approach government officials.
  • PKKK rural women who are assertive in challenging existing governance structures and mechanisms to be gender responsive are being labeled as subversive.
  • In the communities, the PKKK leaders were the ones who introduced and oriented their barangay officials about CEDAW as well as the GAD budget. Indeed, many government personnel and local officials are also not familiar with CEDAW and even those assigned as GAD focal point have vague understanding on how to mainstream gender. There are still many barangays that do not comply and spend the budget properly. There are instances when GAD plans are just formulated for the sake of compliance, without undergoing thorough gender analysis. As a result, programs and services do not fit with the actual needs of women.
  • PKKK leaders realized that the flow of resources and priorities is more often based on “patronage politics”. It depends on ones connection/affiliation with the chief executive or with the Barangay Captain, the Mayor or Governor. As to whether the organization is an identified ally of the current official or administration and/or a government organized association (e.g. RIC, ARC cooperative etc.) where resources are usually infused or concentrated.
  • Local development councils like the Barangay Fisheries and Aquatic Resource Management Council or BFARMCs are dominated by men. Women are often designated either as treasurer or auditor. In tribal communities, men generally dominate the leadership structure. And since tribal leaders are being consulted on delicate matters, women’s voice/opinions are more often unheard, hence not considered.

Gender Equality Milestones

It might be notably dismal, however there are also significant milestones on promoting gender equality that encourage and inspire rural women to continue their struggle. Ka Iska, a farmer leader in Baler, Aurora and now a barangay council member, was able to convince colleagues to formulate a GAD program for Barangay Suklayin, to ensure proper allocation of the GAD budget. Come 2010 local election, she would be willing to assist newly elected officials in drafting the GAD plan and budget. Likewise, PKKK Provincial Coalition contributed in drafting the Youth Code of Baler and now works for the passage of GAD Code for Aurora.

PKKK former president “Ka Trining” Domingo, an agrarian reform beneficiary, is vying for a seat in PARC.  At the local level, women farmer leaders are also encouraged to apply and become members of the Barangay Agrarian Reform Council (BARC).

The Teduray Lambangian Women’s Organization Inc. (TLWOI) members actively participate in political processes, including elections. In the October 2007 local/barangay elections, four (4) were elected from the ten (10) TWLOI members who filed their candidacies. For this 2010 presidential/ national elections, TLWOI untiringly provided voters education especially in the light of the new automated election system (AES) and in the context of the prevailing illiteracy rate among fellow Tédurays. The group also supported candidates who promoted the agenda of IPs’ rights, peace, and development in the region and was able to maximize the election period as strategy for promoting the indigenous peoples’ agenda and establishing the presence of the Téduray Lambangian women in the political sphere. (PKKK-TLWOI-CSI  UNJP 2010 Terminal Report)

In Bohol, PKKK is a member NGO that participated in pushing for the passage of GAD Code in the Province. The Provincial GAD Code was passed on September 01, 2009 under Ordinance 2009-18.

Several PKKK women leaders took chances in running for barangay posts. (Luckily, some of them won in the barangay official seats, around 10% of those who ran for office.)

Many women officials and representatives have been elected and seated in different electorate and leadership structures. However, only few local officials genuinely represent women’s concern. Having a woman official does not necessarily mean that she would automatically be a gender champion. Hence, there is a crucial need for rural women to organize and consolidate to give voice to the sector and demand attention and response from government agencies, institutions and local government units (LGUs). Also, they should be involved in local development councils (e.g. BDC, BARC, M/BFARMC etc.) and special bodies to promote gender equality and comprehensively integrate women’s concern in development and budget planning, formulation, implementation and decision making processes.

At the same time, push government agencies and LGUs to formulate the GAD plan with corresponding budget allocation of at least five percent (5%) of total budget appropriations, so that rural women could readily access. PKKK’s membership to Inter-agency Task Force on Rural Women opens a new opportunity to advocate and participate in GAD budget planning, formulation, implementation and monitoring that promote rural women empowerment.

The Magna Carta and its accompanying IRR should be disseminated and properly explained. With respect to development councils and planning bodies, the bill prescribes for at least forty percent (40%) of membership of all development councils from the regional, provincial, city, municipal and barangay levels shall be composed of women. Moreover, the law mandates the representation of women’s groups in international, national and local special and decision making bodies.

Lastly, it is high time to pass a bill on Local Sectoral Representation so that women could substantially participate in the local councils. Moreover, resources supporting women’s organizations should not only be lodged to those organized by the government but to other groups as well. Rural women should be provided with livelihood opportunities and a training program that could enhance their leadership potentials. Government programs and services must not only be gender sensitive but also culturally sensitive. It must value people’s participation and transparency.


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