It was in FY 2000 when the Tacloban based regional federation of NGOs known as Institute for Democratic Participation and Governance (IDPG) which was pushing for reforms in local governance conducted a participatory rapid appraisal (PRA). The results of the PRA served as part of their baseline data as well as inputs to the participatory development planning initiatives that they were implementing in Leyte province. It was during this PRA in Capoocan where gender issues were surfaced by the community participants.
The results of the initial PRA were further deepened through the studies of the local member NGO of the IDPG network, Center for Partnership Initiatives for Development (CPID), using gender–specific tools. The study showed the following gender and development issues:
- Lack of economic opportunities and skills forced women to migrate to the cities to work as house help or do menial jobs with some going to prostitution. The women who stay are totally dependent economically on their husbands who themselves are unable to provide for their family
- Multiple burdens of Capoocan women that includes sole responsibility for household chores and child rearing as well additional expectation of being able to augment family income and do volunteer community work.
- Violence against Women and Children (VAWC) was surfaced as an issue faced by the womenfolk of Capoocan. Domestic violence particularly physical abuse followed by wifebeating, sexual harassment and discrimination rank among the top acts of violence.
- Low awareness about reproductive rights of women. Confusion and misconceptions on contraception was common and can be traced from the lack of information on the purpose, methods and effects of different reproductive health options.
- Low participation of women in governance with only a few women councilors elected. Their participation in local special bodies (LSBs) is minimal owing to their lack of knowledge and skills in articulating women’s issues. As a result there is a lack of programs and projects for women concerns.
- Lack of gender-disaggregate information at the municipal level resulting in gender blind plans and projects by the LGU. It was only at the Municipal Social Welfare Office were gender specific projects were undertaken but limited only to violence against women concerns.
Given these findings, CPID initiated further consultations with the mayor and other key personalities of the LGU to present possible interventions and strategies that would address the issues surfaced and that eventually led to the formation of the Municipal GAD Focal Team (MGFT). Prior to the formation of the MGFT, CPID in the interim together with an LGU representative from the Municipal Planning and Development Office also further immersed themselves in GAD concerns through meeting and linkages with the National Commission on the Role of the Filipino Women (NCRFW) as well as learning of the procedure for the allocation of GAD in the budget through the book The GAD Budget Trail published by The Asia Foundation. While in Manila they were also able to catch a show called “The Vagina Monologues”, a play about the travails of three outspoken vaginas, unknown to man.