Women and earth

PERSPECTIVE - Cherry Piquero Ballescas - The Freeman

The month of March celebrates both women and earth. March reminds us all about the importance, the value of taking care of our women and our earth. Both are irreplaceable. Both are important for life, for all.

Visiting our communities is a beautiful, refreshing learning experience about the valuable role played by women for the sustainable reproduction and continuation of households, communities, and nature.     Our women are not only busy taking care of the members of the households. Wherever, whenever possible, women add on productive labor to their reproductive labor, joining their male partners, their husbands earn enough to allow their children food, education, and other needs.

Vice Mayor Al Arquillano brought us to Purok Proper in San Francisco, Camotes Island in Cebu last weekend. As many of you may already know, San Fran, as this town is commonly called, is a recipient of international awards for disaster resiliency, waste management, and participatory governance, especially their purok system.

Each purok is composed of about 50 households, with all members taking care of each other's needs as well as that of the community. Regularly, they hold pintakasi or bayanihan activities like community cleaning or meetings and activities for the various sectors of their community: the women, the youth, the seniors, and people with disabilities. Important information are easier to disseminate, problems are also easier to discuss and to resolve together in the purok because everyone knows everyone. Small as the purok may be, the residents have built their own simple version of a purok hall, where everyone can see the profile of the community, its population, the livelihood, the crops raised, and other more pertinent data that can assist the community to continue to assist the livelihood needs of their members. 

International goals like the Milennium Development Goals and the continuing Sustainable Development Goals have been translated in the local language for all to understand what they together in the purok can work on together to make their residents, their communities better and sustainable.

The women of Purok Proper are the leaders of the community. Why are the Purok officials all women in this community? They eagerly offer their explanation: to assist our men who are out working in the farms and in resorts in the area. They also love doing their work together. It is easier for them to encourage everyone else in the community to share as they have known each other since they were children and they have maintained wholesome, even happy relations among themselves.

We were amazed to be guided by the women leaders of this purok to their artesian wells with water supply ample for everyone. So as to ensure healthy, clean water, they have asked residents to stay at a far distance from the wells for their laundry and bathing needs so as not to contaminate their water supply. The purok is also very green and clean, the residents assured of natural food and healthy environment. Their herbs help them stay healthy, their water supply has been assured since the 1930s, they proudly told us. The women lead the way to encourage everyone to do their share for each other in the community and for Mother Nature.

Smiling residents joined the women to meet and to interact with us. Seeing and meeting them all reminded us that life can really be simple with one's daily basic needs assured in the midst of known relatives, friends, and neighbors,  and an effective system of participatory governance with everyone assisting each other, and empowered, including those considered vulnerable in other communities–the women, elderly and the PWDs,

A satisfied community reflects satisfied households and individuals. One needs to visit the San Fran puroks to be convinced that life need not be complicated, that one can genuinely live a happy, satisfied life amidst empowered individuals and groups, including women and within a very simple yet sustainable, well protected Mother Earth.

It is also very inspiring to note that women lead in about 70 percent of the puroks in this town. Empower women, empower everyone else including the environment – that is the simple yet beautiful inspiring message of San Francisco, Camotes for the rest of our country and the world.

You may also wish to do your share to celebrate women and our Mother Earth? It is never too late to show appreciation for our women and our earth.

You may also wish to spend an hour (or more!) for Mother Earth by turning your lights off at the end of March. For those interested to know how to better protect Mother Earth during the Earth Hour this March, please watch out for announcements and invitations coming your way very soon!


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