Women leadership in managing the pandemic

Kagawad Minda (in green), along with other women of Barangay Gabut, actively participating in a Community Risk Assessment workshop
Women leaders all over the world are being acknowledged for effectively addressing the COVID-19 pandemic, a global crisis being faced in almost every corner of the globe. Female head of states like New Zealand’s Jacinda Ardern and Taiwan’s Tsai Ing-wen were among those admirable women leaders who have led their nation in successfully winning the battle against the pandemic. Zooming in to small packets of communities, there are also women who shine in their own ways in keeping their villages safe, particularly during these unusually challenging times. Among them is Kagawad Minda, or Luzviminda Baculi, one of the village councilors from Barangay Gabut, a small riverside village that lies along Cagayan River in Amulung municipality. At 59, she is very much energetic, and has always been one of the most reliable leaders in their village. She is also the only woman to be elected as the village councilor, or respectfully called “Kagawad,” to the local language.
When the local government started to strictly impose the lockdown, the barangay leaders and health workers were the first to respond and take on the responsibilities of keeping their communities safe, particularly those who are most vulnerable, including the persons with disabilities, older persons, pregnant and lactating women and children. Checkpoints were set up to monitor those who came in and out of the village to ensure that anyone with COVID-19 symptoms will be properly handled, which must be manned 24 hours a day, seven days in a week. Kagawad Minda was among those who dutifully safeguarded the barangay’s entry and exit points and served as a front liner.
The first few months were the most difficult, and the local government’s resources were slowly dwindling by the day. Kagawad Minda recalled that the assistance provided to them by the project* titled “Improved adaptation capacities of at-risk coastal communities in Indonesia and the Philippines through inclusive community-based actions and learnings,” came when they needed them the most. Front liners like her received a package of personal protective equipment such as washable face masks, alcohol, and soap— items that they never imagined in the past to be very essential yet barely accessible these days. “The support was very relevant and well-appreciated,” Kagawad Minda said, especially during those times when they thought they seemed to be in a hopeless situation. She had seen how some of her fellow front liners and community volunteers would cry because of the uncertainties that they face. She recalled that they would monitor the persons undergoing quarantine, without any proper protection, thus putting them at risk to be infected as well. At the onset of the emergency, the barangay’s budget was able to cover a small amount to feed those who were on-duty. But the succeeding months became more difficult. The Project was able to augment the food needs, particularly of front liners. As one of the community leaders, Kagawad Minda led the organizing of the daily preparation of hot meals, which covered not only the front liners but also those who were undergoing the mandatory quarantine.
The community does not have any cases of COVID-19 and has been learning to adopt to the situation, but remains vigilant as the municipal local government of Amulung and the whole province of Cagayan are gearing towards stricter mobility restrictions due to the rising number of local transmissions. As they face the unprecedented challenges brought by the pandemic, Kagawad Minda also knows that their village must be prepared for the familiar scenarios— disasters brought by floods and typhoons. While these disasters were frequently experienced, Kagawad Minda was candid to say that their community was not yet armed with comprehensive plans that would help them more prepared. Their high exposure to risk and lack of preparedness has kept her worried, especially now with the pandemic. However, her hopes are also high that they can do something about their situation. The Community Risk Assessment workshop and learning activities they went through made them better understand their risks and appreciate the importance of engaging everyone, particularly the most vulnerable sectors in their community. One of the key lessons that she gained from the risk assessment workshops is that, as leaders, they have the responsibility to ensure that persons with disability, along with other most at-risk groups, are included in community discussions and consultations, and that they should come first when it comes to implementing community development programs and projects, and initiatives that aim to strengthen their resilience. She encourages women like her to be part of the discussion and as she learned more about inclusion, she now pushes for the participation of persons with disability and older persons in community activities. She is also eager to learn more about inclusion, seeing that this is an important part of her work being a community leader who is also at the front line of looking after the well-being of her fellow villagers.
*About the Project: Improved adaptation capacities of at-risk coastal communities in Indonesia and the Philippines through inclusive community-based actions and learnings,” a collaboration among ACCORD Inc, ASB Indonesia and the Philippines, and Bintari Foundation, and with funding support from Germany’s Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development. In the Philippines, the Project covers the municipality of Amulung, Gattaran, and Santa Ana. More information about this project are available here.
(This article is written and provided by ACCORD Inc.)

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