To meet women who have been doing their utmost for the fulfillment and insurance of their rights is a surreal experience. The women of Kababaihan Sandigan ng Kaunlaran1)The name roughly translates to Women’s Foundation of Development. (KASAKA), a women’s organization located in Barangay 176 in Bagong Silang, Caloocan City, are nothing short of heroic. Established in October 1992, KASAKA centers on themes that women in the area, more often than not, face challenges in. They empower local women by developing education, livelihood, and health and nutrition in their locality. Although the group has been ministering the upward mobility of women in the community for more than 2 decades, they continue to confront daily struggles that hinder the realization of the purposes of the organization.The group was founded by Dang Meneses, a woman who, more than twenty years ago, had felt the need for an establishment of an organization that will target women. Her background on organizational development gave her the push and confidence to build the group. She is also comprehensively knowledgeable about the oppression people endure in a regular basis. This is perhaps due to her membership in Kabataang Makabayan2)The name roughly translates to Patriotic Youth.(KM), a nationwide youth group that was founded in 1964 in the hope of combating bureaucratic capitalism and promoting a new wave of democracy that is strongly against colonialist thoughts. Dang is a mother of five who has dedicated her life to KASAKA. Her husband is a government employee working under the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) whom Dang met in KM when they were students. Taking after her parents, Kat, one of Dang’s children, is also very involved in the community, having led a youth organization that promotes literacy among children in conflict of the law.
Asked on what she considers her chief contribution, Dang said that it is the daycare center that she spearheaded to build. She takes great pride in this because it took six long years to finish it. This was due to her relentless effort to seek help from the local government and some non-government organizations. The day care is a mere small house that can ideally house 10-20 children; however, due to the lack of daycare facilities around the area, they currently accommodate more than 50 children. The space is not sufficient for the students and the studying materials and does not boast top-of-the-line facilities. While it is comforting that there are concerned private citizens like the KASAKA women who had noticed the necessity for a nursery in the area, the local government showed indifference as it had not provided enough finances for the construction and Dang and her members chose to rely on their solicitations from the private groups. What should be the obligation of the local government becomes a burden for the Barangay 176 women. Dang described the daycare center as her dugo’t pawis (blood and sweat) to indicate her hard work for its completion.The early years of the group did not go smoothly. Dang, having come from an activist background, had to endure its permeating stereotypes. The men, particularly the husbands of the members, intially feared the influence that a leader activist would bring to their wives. Getting remarks like “Aktibista ‘yan. (She’s an activist)” and “Paghihiwalayin tayo n’yan. (She will separate us)” was a common incident. When asked how she took these comments, she shrugged her shoulder. She said she was used to it. The place was not ready for something revolutionary; she understood the apprehension. What mattered was that women become more informed and intelligent to confront gender issues. This was reflective of the persisting conditions of women in society. They still suffered from gender stigma that impeded their development. Aside from gender stereotypes, women also put up with other societal prejudices assigned to them which made their life even more taxing. The burden was, undoubtedly, in multiple levels.
Despite the establishment of the group, troubles are still persisting for the women of Barangay 176. They still face domestic problems especially violence perpetuated by their husbands. In a year, Dang tells that there are around 25-30 cases of domestic violence in the area. The organization serves as a stronghold. Interestingly, the daycare center becomes a fortress to them. It transforms to a multi-purpose hall when the situation calls for it. The women of KASAKA aspire to be more trained and educated in dealing with domestic violence to improve their response actions in the future.
However, there is a wider problem in tackling domestic violence. Although presented with several resolutions to end the abusive relationship, women nevertheless choose to stay in union with their husbands because they are supposed to consider the wellness of their children. This is an indication of the multiple burden women unfortunately remain to carry. The supervision of the children is an obligation solely consigned to women and, in turn, becomes a moral obligation that women must not relinquish; otherwise, society sees them as a negligent and irresponsible person. KASAKA is hoping to empower their members to rise above the unfair societal expectations put to women.This small organization, despite its struggles, has become a concrete guiding light for the women of Barangay 176. What started as a risky plan from one person becomes a collective action to facilitate development of the local women who, more often than not, tolerate what meager services they receive from the government. With the strong will of the members, this organization endeavors to carry out its development plans, hopefully with sufficient backup from the government or non-government bodies.
By Lea Salen Peralta, ASEAN Correspondent from Philippines
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|1.||↑||The name roughly translates to Women’s Foundation of Development.|
|2.||↑||The name roughly translates to Patriotic Youth.|