“We cannot deny the fact na napakalaki po talaga ng importansya ng ating mga kababaihan. The fight for the survival of our race, of humankind, laban sa pandemic ay hindi lang po nagtatapos sa pagbantay, pag-contact tracing, pagbakuna at pag-cure ng mga nagkaroon ng sakit. The fight for our survival also depends upon the effort for our food security… ang magsasalba sa atin sa pandemyang ito ay ang sapat na pagkain kaya nga po ang ating pagsaludo sa lahat ng mga babae, sa lahat ng kababaihan sa Department of Agriculture sa patuloy na pagtatrabaho, sa patuloy na pakikipaglaban, sa patuloy nilang pagsusumikap na magkaroon tayo ng sapat na pagkain hindi lang dito sa Bicol Region kung hindi sa buong Pilipinas.” These were the words of Department of Agriculture (DA) Regional Executive Director Rodel P. Tornilla to honor the agency’s women front liners during the DA RFO V Inter-agency Women Employees’ Day Celebration held in the DA Compound Pili, Camarines Sur on March 8, 2021.

Anchored on the theme “Women in leadership: Achieving an equal future in a COVID-19 world,” the Department of Agriculture Gender and Development (GAD) Focal System headed by Regional GAD Focal Person Aloha Gigi I. Bañaria conducted several blended learning activities on International Women’s Day to highlight women agri frontliners’ grit, hope and resilience as the country continues to navigate the new normal amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Over 50 women employees wearing purple advocacy T-shirts promoting this year’s 2021 National Women’s Month Celebration slogan “Juana Laban sa Pandemya, Kaya!” from all divisions of the DA Regional Field Office (RFO) and attached agencies including Philippine Fiber Industry Development Authority (PhilFIDA), National Meat Inspection Service (NMIS), Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR), Agricultural Training Institute (ATI), Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA), Philippine Fisheries Development Authority (PFDA), and Philippine Crop Insurance Corp. (PCIC) joined the face-to-face program which commenced with the Agribusiness and Marketing Assistance Division’s (AMAD) awarding of financial grant assistance worth a total of P20 million to 14 DA-accredited civil society organizations (CSOs), majority of which were women-led associations and cooperatives under the Kadiwa ni Ani at Kita program. This was followed by a Kadiwa Retail Outlet sa DA 5 Tour, to show women’s engagement in Kadiwa ni Ani at Kita. PhilFIDA OIC-Regional Director Mary Anne R. Molina, ATI Regional Training Center 5 Director Elsa A. Parot, and BFAR Spokesperson and Fishery Resource Management Section Chief Nonie P. Enolva and Fisherfolk Operation Center Head Rowena Briones also graced the occasion. Other women employees participated in the activities virtually via Zoom. The Inter-Agency Women Employees’ Day celebration featured womenars on gender issues exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic such as Mental Health Care Amid the Pandemic by Dr. Gilda Gayle R. Abonal-Gomez, a psychologist from the Local Government Unit of Naga City and The Virtual Normal: Online Wallets and Digital Banking by Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas Bank Officer Keith Hidalgo.

In her message, DA-Bicol Regional Technical Director for Operations Luz R. Marcelino underscored how women’s strength, grace, intelligence, guts, and strategic mindset kept societies afloat despite the COVID-19 health crisis and the economic havoc it has brought. She also acknowledged the DA women employee’s contributions in the agri-fishery sector’s quest for survival amid the pandemic stating that out of the eight divisions in the RFO, seven are headed by women. She added that 148 or 57.81 percent of DA employees are empowered women.

“The prospects of empowered women are limitless regardless of which roles you want to take… It’s your innate talents and skills to ignite the passion—yun lang po ang ating kailangan para po tayo ay maka-sustain ng ating role as a woman. We have to be the best version of ourselves,” she said.

In a video message, Undersecretary for High Value Crops and Chairperson of the DA GAD Focal Point System Evelyn G. Laviña referred to women in agriculture as catalysts of change not only for themselves but for the country. She also urged the participants to recommit themselves to the advancement of women’s rights and equal opportunities saying “Let us enable every Juana to show how extraordinary she can be by tearing down barriers to gender equality and ending discrimination and fighting sexism and toxic masculinity.”

R.A. 6949, signed by former President Corazon C. Aquino on April 10, 1990, declared March 8 as a special working holiday in celebration of National Women’s Day. The law complemented Proclamation No. 227, which she signed on March 17, 1988 providing for a month-long observance of the month of March as Women’s Month.

The National Women’s Month Celebration under President Rodrigo R. Duterte’s administration is geared towards partnership for change and full implementation of R.A. 9710 also known as the Magna Carta of Women. The theme “WE Make Change Work for Women” which will be used from 2017 to 2022 highlights women empowerment’s contribution to positive change as well as in the country’s economic, social, cultural, and political development. WE stands for Women Empowerment; Make Change Work = MCW = Magna Carta of Women; CHANGE for Compassionate and Harmonized Actions and Networks for Gender Equality.The activity was capped with an Agri and Non-Agri Purple Showtime, a variety of contests in support of the Philippine Commission on Women’s advocacy campaign for the 2021 National Women’s Month celebration. (Annielyn L. Baleza, DA RAFIS V)