Editorial: Eliminate violence against women and children

RESPONSIVE TO GRASSROOTS REALITIES. Empowering women and children to break the cycle of violence requires a community-based program that prioritizes not just the physical and mental health of victims and survivors but also includes gender and development (GAD) focal persons, crucial in the network to eliminate domestic violence and human trafficking.
RESPONSIVE TO GRASSROOTS REALITIES. Empowering women and children to break the cycle of violence requires a community-based program that prioritizes not just the physical and mental health of victims and survivors but also includes gender and development (GAD) focal persons, crucial in the network to eliminate domestic violence and human trafficking. ENRICO SANTISAS

In the country, the laws protecting women from violence rest on crucial implementation at the grassroots level.

It is ironical that barangay Gender and Development (GAD) focal persons that are at the frontlines of reaching out to abused or vulnerable women have inadequate protection and are subjects of economic precarity themselves.

Thus, the Mandaue City Council should file an ordinance as planned to change the status of the local GAD focal persons from barangay hires to job order-hired workers.

As reported by Honey I. Cotejo of SunStar Cebu on Nov. 25, Mandaue City Councilor Cynthia Cinco-Remedio said that the Women and Family Committee she heads will propose to the Mandaue City Council raising the compensation and granting better job security to barangay GAD workers, which will also aid them in carrying out their work.

If implemented, job order employment benefits some 200 Mandaue GAD workers, who currently receive at least P3,000 monthly compensation as barangay-hired workers (BHWs).

Cotejo said that some BHWs give from their own pockets to provide food, transportation, and other immediate needs to women fleeing from their abusers, often their husbands and partners.

To encourage other victims of violence against women and children (VAWC) to leave abusers and predators and file charges against them to end the circle of domestic violence, barangays should allocate funds to provide comprehensive and sustainable assistance, prioritizing the physical and mental health of VAWC survivors.

Access to a barangay program offering psychosocial, therapeutic, medical, and legal interventions will encourage more women and children to report abuse and leave their abusers.

This was a recommendation of a Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS) study authored by Clarissa David, Jose Ramon Albert, and Jana Flor Vizmanos.

According to a Jan. 15, 2018 article on pids.gov.ph, David, Albert, and Vizmanos determined that there was a “slow decline of VAWC cases” in the country, after analyzing data covering 2008 to 2013.

As reported by SunStar Cebu on Nov. 25, VAWC cases in Mandaue City have “significantly dropped” in 2023, as divulged by Police Lieutenant Colonel Mercy Villaro, head of the Mandaue City Police Office (MCPO) Strategy Management Unit.

Advocates see the need to encourage more victims to report cases of VAWC, file charges against perpetrators, and seek assistance and counselling to recover and move on in their life.

David, Albert, and Vizmanos identify poverty, low educational attainment, lack of community support, and disasters as factors pushing VAWC.

Disasters, which cover natural and manmade crises such as the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) pandemic, displace families and individuals, making them vulnerable to human trafficking, sex trade, and cybercrime, pointed out the researchers of the PIDS study.

Thus, while Mandaue City GAD workers need job security and improvement of their compensation to enable them to continue working and apply their training to reach out to more victims and potential victims, sensitivity training should raise the awareness of barangay leadership to see the interrelatedness of allocating funds for GAD initiatives.

Despite the lack of resources and education that can give employment and financial independence to women and minors, victims should be able to count on community support to report abusers, prevent them from abusing other victims, and save their lives, sanity, and dependents to truly survive VAWC.

Other local governments should emulate the plan of the Mandaue City Women and Family Committee to propose improving the job security of GAD focal persons, a move that may reverberate in empowering women, saving lives, and ending the cycle of violence marring many families and homes.

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