Written by: Kamille May H. Atienza

To mark this year’s International Women’s Day, as well as National Women’s Month (NWM), the pilot episode of the “PNVSCA’s VolunTalk: Usapang Bayanihan” waslaunched on 08 March 2022, at the Makati Palace Hotel and live streamed via Facebook.

The VolunTalk is a quarterly talk show segment of the Philippine National Volunteer Service Coordinating Agency (PNVSCA) that primarily tackles a variety of topics on volunteerism and volunteering, including volunteer experiences, volunteer management and coordination. Dedicated to International Women’s Day,a global celebration of women’s social, economic, cultural, and political achievements, the pilot episode of VolunTalk was hosted by Ms. Danica Pacardo and Mr. Jhan Bhenedict Gamba of PNVSCA.

The VolunTalk started with an inspirational message from US Peace Corps Country Director Jenner Edelman as she shared her volunteering experience during her younger years and the US Peace Corps’ efforts to eliminate gender bias and promote gender equality as well as gender equity. “To all of the women and girls joining us here today, I say: Let us reach for the sky. It is now our turn. We have earned it and we can do it, and there are no limits to what we can achieve,” Director Edelman said.

US Peace Corps Country Director Jenner Edelman delivers inspirational message for IWD 2022

The show featured special guests from the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) – Ms. Lara Javier, Senior Program Officer, and Ms. Naomi Sakatani, Volunteer Coordinator. The interview covered an overview of JICA’s Japan Overseas Cooperation Volunteers (JOCV) Program and their personal experiences working with volunteers, local partners, and beneficiaries.

From left, Ms. Danica Pacardo, Ms. Lara Javier, Ms. Naomi Sakatani, and Mr. Jhan Bhenedict Gamba

According to Ms. Javier and Ms. Sakatani, gender bias is not an issue when recruiting and deploying volunteers for the JOCV program because volunteer opportunities are open to all regardless of gender. Ms. Sakatani added that since 1998, there have been more women applicants than men, and an equal or greater number of women volunteers have been dispatched. Most importantly, volunteers are assigned based on their expertise and not their gender.

While it is widely believed that women are assigned to more nurturing roles, JICA’s volunteer sector assignments have evolved. Male volunteers are increasingly involved in public health and nursing, and women are increasingly involved in traditionally male-dominated fields such as information and communications technology and disaster risk reduction and management. Similar with Peace Corps, JICA is also breaking the bias on gender roles. JICA also educates their volunteers about sexual harassment in the workplace and prepares them for encounters on gender biases while in the field.

People from the live audience also asked questions on how their role as volunteer managers has empowered them as women, and how they have contributed in the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Ms. Sakatani stressed that her exposure to diverse cultures and beliefs while volunteering inspired her to become more involved in international cooperation, and ultimately led her to work as a Volunteer Coordinator. While she did not see gender as a barrier in accomplishing all of these goals, female volunteers regard her as a role model and view her profession as an ideal career path.

On the other hand, Ms. Javier emphasized the critical role of their volunteers and partners in achieving SDGs, as well as their role as volunteer coordinators. She stated that their volunteers and partners work actively on various programs, which contribute to community goals and, essentially, the SDGs.

The interview concluded with words of encouragement for all women and men volunteers, volunteer managers, and volunteer coordinators.

“I could simply say that, let’s enjoy the differences in any aspect like gender, perspective or cultures – everything. Our very strong message is to break the bias. The bias will break if we will practice enjoying and embracing the differences,” Ms. Sakatani said.

“We all have something to contribute to community development and nation building. We learn a lot when we work for the community. Let’s go out – men, women, and seniors.  Volunteerism is inclusive, it’s for all. Sana in our lifetime, we get the chance to volunteer,” Ms. Javier said.

To conclude the show, PNVSCA screened a video featuring women volunteers and volunteer managers, dubbed as #JuanaBoluntir. In the video, Mss. Dianne Arboleda (FUNVA), Sharon Rose Dadang-Rafols (VSOI), Cathy Calamiong (VSOI), and Nanette Repalpa (France Voluntaires) shared their motivation and most significant contribution as #JuanaBoluntir.

PNVSCA Executive Director Donald Gawe also graced the show and wished all women volunteers a happy International Women’s Day. Also in attendance on site are JICA-JOCV Program officers Roxanne De Los Santos and Jennery Magtulis, and the entire PNVSCA staff. More than 65 representatives from various local and national government agencies, academic institutions, and the general public tuned in on Facebook to watch the VolunTalk live. As of date, VolunTalk’s pilot episode has been viewed 737 times and shared 50 times on PNVSCA’s Facebook page.

Post-event group photo of guests from JICA together with PNVSCA staff

PNVSCA’s VolunTalk: Usapang Bayanihan will air quarterly thru PNVSCA’s official Facebook and YouTube pages.

The author is currently the Volunteer Service Officer II of the Policy, Advocacy and Technical Services Division (PATSD), Philippine National Volunteer Service Coordinating Agency.

Visit PNVSCA website (www.pnvsca.gov.ph) and PNVSCA Facebook (facebook.com/PNVSCA) for other stories and information on volunteering.