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It is gender and development’s turn to step into the limelight, but several challenges may threaten its success

MANILA, Philippines – The road to gender diversity in the Philippines starts locally—in local governments, to be exact.

Because the Local Government Academy (LGA) deals with preparing the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) and local government units (LGU) to tackle the demands of local governance, the institution prepared to include gender-responsive policies in its programs. This is in line with the laws already in place in the Philippines.

A series of workshops held from June 14 to 15 and July 4 to 5 assessed the LGA’s current ability to integrate gender and development (GAD) into their programs, and determined the steps the agency must take to be successful in mainstreaming.

LGA’s programs specifically target building or enhancing the LGUs’ knowledge and skills so much of the work is issues-based. Because of this, there is more room to incorporate GAD from the planning to the implementation.

When planning the training of the Local Government Operations Officers (LGOO), women’s concerns, particularly those of pregnant women, could be better addressed by consulting with women’s groups, suggested the participants.

Pregnant women are currently barred from participating in the LGOO training, according to DILG Memorandum Circular No. 2014-136.

Within the LGA, however, workshop facilitator Fe Quanico-Salcedo explained that it is possible to incorporate GAD in the agency’s existing system by creating or strengthening the GAD Focal Point System and forming a GAD database. Another starting point could be finding points for integration in the gender roles in the workforce and in planning, budgeting, and monitoring, and evaluation.

The institution also acknowledged that it would be useful for the staff to receive gender sensitivity training to help them understand and improve their GAD mainstreaming efforts.

Long way to go

The LGA may be taking the initial steps towards gender-responsive policies, but it still has plenty of issues to address and tough questions to seriously ponder.

In the Magna Carta of Women, the DILG is tasked with handling two key areas: protecting women from violence and other violations against their rights, and equipping and monitoring LGUs in their implementation of GAD policies.

However, although the document has institutionalized Philippine GAD policies since 2008, many agencies, including the DILG, are still behind in implementing their set of programs. Structural and mental roadblocks are equally to blame for holding back progress.

During the workshop, participants identified one of the most glaring threats: GAD not being as high a priority for the LGA. This has translated to a lack of technical skills in the DILG, which they say may hinder their successfully carrying out GAD programs.

Because GAD is not as high a priority, participants said structural support like LGA guidelines and gender-responsive programs, projects, and activities would have to be strengthened.

But how do they deal with the motivational inertia?

Within the LGA, it means starting the discussions through brown-bag sessions to get the ball rolling. For LGUs, participants said there is still room for the LGA to lead the way by incentivizing GAD mainstreaming in local policy.

Why bother?

If it takes a village to raise a child, it will also take a village – and maybe more – to raise women’s lot in life.

Fortunately for many women, LGUs have already put in place their own gender-sensitive policies.

Quezon City continues to advocate for GAD mainstreaming policies. One of their recent projects was in coordination with UN Women’s Safe Cities Program, which opposed violence against women, particularly catcalling and street harassment. Its mayor, Herbert Bautista also signed an ordinance to crack down on other forms of street harassment.

The Office of the Ombudsman used Davao City, Cotabato Province, and Misamis Occidental Province as examples in its 2013 compilation of Gender and Development. “The enactment of Gender and Development (GAD) Codes by some LGUs proved how critical local policies are in realizing the vision of development for all,” explained the Ombudsman’s report.

The Sustainable Development Goals show that gender equality is now also a global priority, and when women have chances to succeed, the benefits can extend to everyone.  In the agricultural sector, equal opportunity could translate to a 30% increase in yield, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization.

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) also reported that high-income countries are also countries where there is equal access to education for men and women.

These findings make the case that LGUs have a lot to gain by having their own gender-responsive policies. If LGA successfully integrates gender in their work, they can be the LGUs’ greatest ally.

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