Now in its 15th year, the Provincial Women’s Commission (PWC) has continued to make great strides in its advocacy in fighting all forms of violence against women and children as well as promoting and protecting of their rights.
One of its latest events organized is the Women’s Congress Anniversary on March 21 when hundreds of women filled the Capitol Social Hall. The event carried this year’s Women’s Month theme, “Juana, Desisyon Mo ay Mahalaga sa Kinabukasan ng Bawat Isa, Ikaw na!”
“Today, things are a whole lot better for women,” Cebu Vice Governor Agnes Magpale said when she formally opened the Congress.
PWC is headed by Governor Hilario P. Davide III and co-chaired by Vice-Governor Magpale.
Some Provincial Board members, local government units (LGUs) officials, Cebu City delegates and Camarines Sur Representative Leni Robredo who was the keynote speaker attended the gathering.
Tracing back history
Magpale not only gave her welcome speech but also delivered the PWC accomplishment report for 2014. She also traced the organization’s institutionalization that dates back to 1993. She recalled how she fought for the inclusion of PWC when she was still a Provincial Board member.
In 1999, the Provincial Women’s Commission was born through Ordinance no. 99-39 which Magpale authored in collaboration with Legal Alternatives for Women Center, Inc. (LAW, Inc.)
PWC’s Technical Working Group (TWG) was recognized in 2011, pushing for women empowerment and promoting women’s rights.
One of their powerful strategies that raised awareness were creating fora, conducting leadership and basic skills management and development trainings and establishing a radio blitz called “Tingog sa Kababaye-an.”
PWC has also partnered with various government, non-government and civic organizations as well as international agencies, such as U.S. Department of Homeland Security and International Justice Mission.
“Soon enough, women would visit the PWC office to share their stories and seek our help,” Magpale said.
The Commission eventually focused on livelihood trainings, rescue operations and legal assistance. It participates during court hearings and provides critical care and after care sessions, such as psychological intervention.
Women gearing towards self-sufficiency
Training for empowerment is an essential component for women to advance and become a better individual. It is a continuous and long-term process that requires political will and commitment of all parties involved in it.
One of PWC’s goals to help women in the province increase their economic and personal stability in order to achieve self-sufficiency.
Accredited women’s group in Samboan, Tuburan, Carmen, Compostela, Medellin, Liloan, San Remigio, and Oslob have received sewing machines and trainings on dressmaking to engage the women in their LGUs in cottage industries.
Samboan as well had hair culture and spa training. Soap-making and meat processing training were also done in several barangays in Talisay City, Barili. Alegria, Malabuyoc, Samboan, and Cordova.
Furthermore, the Provincial Social Welfare and Development Office (PSWDO) have recently re-launched the “Bugasan para sa Kababaye-an” program, a livelihood project that provides 10 sacks of rice amounting to P12,500 to each women’s group, which will serve as seed money to start a rice retail business.
Rep. Leni Robredo shared in her message that in her district in Camarines Sur, they empower the women by providing them with livelihood trainings and programs.
“Hindi pwedeng training lamang. Kailangan magamit nila ito,” said Robredo.
She stressed that if women are more financially independent or more economically empowered, chances are they will be stronger in fighting against abuse.
Initiatives for justice
Forging partnerships and coordination with law enforcement agencies, law firms, legal offices and officers for needed legal services has enhanced PWC’s response and approach to violent crimes against women and children.
At present, PWC filed 152 cases in both the different Prosecutor’s Offices and in court; 1,424 victims of sexual abuse were given psycho-socio-medico-legal services; 694 victims of physical abuse were given medical attention; 1,027 victims of psychological abuse were given psychological therapy and counseling services; 16 victims of abuse and other forms of violence are given shelter and sent to school; nine offenders incarcerated pending resolution of cases; and three foreign nationals on bail for temporary liberty.
Moreover, the first Cebu Provincial Women and Children Crisis Center at Sudlon, Lahug in Cebu City will finally be realized this year. Capitol officials broke ground on February 4 the P20-million crisis center that will cater to women and children who are victims of any forms of violence and exploitation in the province.
The construction of the center is projected to be completed and operational by July and will be manned by social workers and doctors.
Being the head of the commission, Davide thanked the vice governor for lobbying for the project. He said the crisis center will be a “monument of love” that looks after the welfare of women and children.
“With the start of the construction of the Cebu Women and Children Crisis Center, with a very active and functional commission and its TWG, the existence of the center completes the overall agenda for the welfare of women and children of Cebu”, Magpale said.