Written by: Jeffrey N. Almazan
Recognizing the role and contribution of women volunteers to local and national development, the Philippine National Volunteer Service Coordinating Agency (PNVSCA), in partnership with the Laguna State Polytechnic University (LSPU) and Regional Gender and Development (GAD) Committee in CALABARZON, celebrated the National Women’s Month and International Women’s Day on 08 March 2023 through a Forum on GAD and Volunteerism. The forum showcased various volunteerism efforts and stories of partners that are anchored on gender-responsive projects, programs, and activities thus contributing to inclusive development.
LSPU President Dr. Mario R. Briones warmly welcomed the more than 110 participants and emphasized the importance of volunteerism in advancing gender and development to achieve development goals. He further added that gender must not hinder us from creating a brighter future.
To provide the context of the Forum, PNVSCA presented the basic concepts of volunteering and its link to gender and development including some current statistics on local and international volunteering. PNVSCA also shared the report of United Nations Volunteer (UNV) that men and women often perform different roles during volunteerism, and their participation differs also regarding the type of organizations and activities they commit their time to. UNV’s report in 2018 also states that women take on 57 percent of all volunteering globally.
Two separate panel discussions followed which were on: (1) international volunteering and GAD with resource speakers from partner international volunteer service organizations (IVSOs) such as Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO) represented by Ms. Jocelyn J. Uy and the United States Peace Corps (USPC) represented by Ms. Maris Candelaria, and from a local partner institution of France Volontaires – the Life Project for Youth (LP4Y) represented by Mr. Adrien Bachelet; and (2) local volunteering and GAD with panelists from the Ugnayan ng Pahinungod of the University of the Philippines Los Banos (UPLB) and from LSPU’s volunteer-engaging GAD programs, represented by Mr. Jose Limbay Lahi Espaldon and Dr. Ruby Brion, respectively. The panelists emphasized the roles of women in the volunteer programs as well as the extent and contribution of women volunteers in achieving the goals and objectives of the programs. According to them, women now are strongly represented in various volunteering activities and the presence of women contributes to the efficient delivery of projects and programs. The speakers also shared their personal experiences and observation on why there are more women volunteers than men as presented in PNVSCA’s earlier presentation on sex-disaggregated volunteer statistics. “Women generally are persistent. Hindi tayo tumitigil hangga’t hindi natin nakukuha ang ating objective. Hindi tayo hihinto hangga’t hindi natin nakukuha ang ating goal…Pag babae, we’re passionate,” as Ms. Candelaria put it.
During the Open Forum, the IVSOs clarified that the selection of a partner LGU depends on the set criteria identified by the organization, and that a thorough community needs assessment is being conducted in order to identify the top priority LGUs and communities. IVSOs expressed excitement to work with the LGUs in the province of Laguna in the coming years.
To gauge audience participation, a Menti survey was conducted after the series of talks. More than 19 participants provided possible volunteering activities for women and the majority of these were involving women volunteers in livelihood training, followed by technical assistance on community projects and counseling.
Towards the end of the Forum, PNVSCA Executive Director Donald James D. Gawe thanked the LSPU officials for hosting and for gracing the event. He also shared some of his key takeaways from the forum that include discussing how volunteerism and the pursuit of women empowerment in GAD need a collaborative partnership undertaking, and that GAD and Volunteerism should be encouraged and institutionalized. ED Gawe also thanked the city’s support of the activity and expressed optimism that they can inspire more volunteers in the province and become a learning hub for volunteerism.
In her closing remarks, NEDA Calabarzon Regional Director Agnes Espinas-Tolentino thanked all the participants in the event. She highlighted the importance of GAD as a cross-cutting theme in the Philippine Development Plan to achieve the vision of having a Matatag, Maginhawa at Panatag na Buhay by 2040. RD Tolentino said that the biggest challenge now is the integration of corporate gender-responsive programs that will promote gender equality. She also recognized every simple act of volunteering as part of the bigger picture for an inclusive society not only in developing the region but for the country’s development as well.
The event was capped with a ceremonial signing of a commitment to support the integration of gender-responsive volunteerism as a development strategy in their respective programs, projects and activities. Heads of RGADC CALABARZON, LSPU, PIA and PNVSCA led the signing of the commitment, followed by the representatives of the IVSOs, regional line agencies, LGUs, SUCs, volunteers, and other stakeholders.
The Forum was held at the new RDE building of the LSPU-San Pablo City campus and it was hosted by LSPU Asst. Professor Mr. Chester Derequito while the panel discussions were moderated by Extension and Training Services Director Angela L. Reginaldo. PIA CALABARZON team led by Mr. Mark Bryan Lito and PIA-Laguna represented by Mr. Christopher Hedreyda provided technical support to the event.
On the other hand, PNVSCA representatives attended two simultaneous events—one was organized by the Philippine Commission on Women (PCW) and UN Women which is a commemorative event for International Women’s Day on the theme, “DigitALL: Innovation and technology for gender equality,” at the Samsung Hall of SM Aura Premier in Taguig City. The activity aimed to strengthen and support women in high level policy forum.
The other is an International Women’s Month Kick-off event of France Volontaires and the French Embassy at the Multipurpose Hall of Alliance Francaise de Manille in Makati City with the theme, “Embrace Equity” which served as a platform for speakers from different sectors to share their stories in building an inclusive environment and empowering women in marginalized communities as well as inspiring women to take the leadership roles and become an inspiration in the society. The celebration also highlighted the true meaning and importance of volunteerism as the event was made possible with the help of volunteers–youth volunteers who helped conceptualize and organize the event, and professors and artists who volunteered as judges during the poetry and painting competition.
The author is currently the Volunteer Service Officer II, 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.