PILI, CAMARINES SUR — “Did we really make change work for women?” Department of Agriculture (DA) Bicol Regional Technical Director for Operations Luz R. Marcelino posed this question to about 90 women employees of the DA and its attached agencies in the region who attended the Inter-Agency Women Employees’ Day celebration held on March 10, 2022 in Pili, Camarines Sur.

Marcelino stated that the answer should be a resounding “YES!”

“If you take a look at the interventions and attributions coming from the banner programs, masasabi kong 39 percent of our clients served are women based on the data in 2021. We have served about 82,682 women-clientelles from the various regular banner programs. This would only show the countless efforts given by DA RFO V to GAD,” she said. She also acknowledged DA RFO V’s achievements for the GREAT Women Project and in the annual Search for Outstanding Rural Women.

The DA-Bicol Gender and Development (GAD) Focal Point System led by Regional Focal Person Aloha Gigi I. Bañaria spearheaded the Inter-Agency Women Employees’ Day activity which aims to create and facilitate platforms to discuss good practices, gaps, challenges, and commitments in pursuing gender and development, strengthen the implementation of the Magna Carta of Women, and inspire and empower women employees as agents of change in promoting gender equality and women empowerment (GEWE).

According to Bañaria, the event is also a fitting tribute to the women employees of DA-Bicol and its attached agencies this Women’s Month who in one way or another, have contributed to the success of the DA’s rural women clienteles. She mentioned that DA-Bicol GAD is one of the top-performing regions nationwide in terms of GAD program implementation with 32 percent accomplishment in 2021, which was translated into economic empowerment of Bicolanas engaged in the agri-fishery sector.

This year marks the culmination of the six-year theme “WE Make Change Work for Women.” WE stands for Women’ Empowerment; Make Change Work = MCW = Magna Carta of Women; CHANGE or Compassionate and Harmonized Actions and Networks for Gender Equality; and We/us or ‘kami/tayo’ in Filipino. The sub-theme for the 2022 Women’s Month celebration is “Agenda ng Kababaihan, Tungo sa Kaunlaran.” In her message, Undersecretary for High Value Crops and Rural Credit and the DA GAD Focal Point System Chairperson Evelyn G. Laviña recognized DA-Bicol’s unequaled achievements in terms of women empowerment and gender equality mainstreaming saying “This Women’s Month especially today, during this crisis, the Bicolanas among our countrywomen take center stage once more, standing up for their rights, challenging stereotypes, breaking barriers and serving as pioneers of change. This year, we recognize the Bicol women’s valuable role in our society and proves that inclusive and sustainable development is only possible when gender equality becomes obtainable.

”The Inter-Agency Women Employees’ Day celebration kicked off with a Zumba dubbed as “ZumBabae” at the DA Regional Field Office Compound. It also featured a female talk show with four of DA-Bicol’s empowered women as guests namely DA RFO V Chief of the Regulatory Division and Caretaker of the Office of the Regional Technical Director for Research and Regulations Rosita M. Imperial, Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) V Marine Fisheries Resource Management Section Chief Nonie P. Enolva, Aquaculturist 1 and the first transwoman permanent employee of BFAR V, Erick “Rhikka Boom” Ballaran, and DA RFO V Regional Agriculture and Fisheries Information Section Chief, Resident Ombudsman, and Values Restoration Officer Emilia B. Bordado. They shared their respective success stories, lessons learned and experiences related to GEWE in the workplace and identified other gender gaps and issues that need to be addressed as well as proposed solutions to sustain the agency’s gender and development gains.

“Ngonian, masasabi ko na gender redistributive ang samuyang opisina—women-friendly na (Now, I could say that our office is already gender redistributive—it is women-friendly),” Enolva said, as she related how BFAR invested on a GAD walk enabling women to cross a canal going to their fish pond, which signified gender parity between male and female employees in their work environment. Ballaran affirmed Enolva’s observation saying that BFAR embraced her for her work performance regardless of her gender identity. Imperial, on the other hand, discussed how DA-Bicol, during her term as High Value Crops Development Program (HVCDP) Coordinator, was able to mainstream GEWE in the agency’s programs and projects to its rural women-beneficiaries by developing small-farm equipment and machinery in collaboration with the Philippine Center for Postharvest Development and Mechanization (PhilMech).Bordado, for her part, accentuated the need to anchor GEWE on values saying, “Ang empowerment ng mga kababaihan ay hindi lang sila maging financially stable or sustainable. Dapat palakasin pa rin ang values system lalung-lalo na tayong mga kababaihan, ‘yan ang ating major role sa ating mga anak and the future generation na dapat ang moral fiber ng ating mga anak ay malakas.”

DA-Bicol also invited Atty. Karina Katerin I. Bertes, Attorney III of the Civil Service Commission Region V Anti-Red Tape Unit, to update its women employees on the amendment to the sexual harassment provisions in the 2017 Revised Rules on Administrative Cases in the Civil Service stipulated in CSC Resolution No. 2100064 dated January 20, 2021. Moreover, DA-Bicol GAD recognized some of the agency’s women leaders including RTD Marcelino, Bañaria, DA Agricultural Training Institute (ATI) Regional Training Center Director Elsa A. Parot, and Rosita C. De Lumen for their support to the GAD Focal Point System activities.The activity was capped with a Nature Walk and Harvest Festival at the DA RFO V Organic Agriculture Research and Development Center wherein DA Lady Employees Association (DALEA) President Imelda P. Acompaño encouraged the women participants to share the experiences and insights they have gained with their fellow women employees to further promote and strengthen GEWE in the workplace. (Annielyn L. Baleza, DA RAFIS V)Photo Credits: Ramon C. Adversario Jr. and Eduardo D. Collantes Jr., DA RAFIS V