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Filipinas at the frontlines for the environment

/ 05:04 AM June 02, 2022

Let me start off with a sobering situation: The latest update on the Sixth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released this April noted that climate change is causing more frequent and more severe weather conditions, such as storms, floods, droughts, and wildfires.

In addition, the World Bank’s “Market Study for the Philippines: Plastics Circularity Opportunities and Barriers,” published in March 2021, says 2.7 million tons of plastic waste are generated in the Philippines each year, with an estimated 20 percent ending up in the ocean. This has a big impact on the livelihoods of the Philippines’ coastal communities and a major cause of flooding in our densely populated areas.

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Through all of these challenges, women are often the most vulnerable to the effects of climate change. The IPCC reports that 70 percent of the 1.3 billion people living in conditions of poverty are women. In urban areas, 40 percent of the poorest households are headed by women, and women represent a high percentage of poor communities that are highly dependent on local natural resources for their livelihood and food security for their families.

Empowering women for change. Because women are the most impacted by the situation, it also makes sense to empower them as advocates for actionable eco-sustainable solutions. SPARK Philippines works with women toward climate change adaptation and mitigation. Together with our local and international partners, we have mobilized women’s groups to become our partners in advocating for the environment.

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Last holiday season, we launched “Angels for Angels” in partnership with the Swiss Embassy and SM Malls to engage communities of marginalized women from Quezon City, Taguig, and Pasig. Using materials that would otherwise go into landfills, each community crafted a unique angel décor design. Among our participants were persons deprived of liberty (PDLs) of the QC Female Dormitory. Their angels were made using discarded fabric scraps from ecobags.

Also in Quezon City, we launched a response to the overwhelming number of campaign tarpaulins used in the recent elections. We partnered with the city government through the office of Mayor Joy Belmonte, the Climate Change and Environmental Sustainability Department, and the Small Business and Cooperatives Development Promotions Office to upcycle the tarpaulins and repurpose them into tote bags that will be designed by renowned social entrepreneur Zarah Juan. This is a new income stream for our community seamstresses in Barangays Lagro and Sto. Cristo and PDLs, who also made personal protective equipment during the pandemic. Quezon City is the first local government unit to have a Climate Change and Environmental Sustainability Department. This is led by a woman, and established during the tenure of a female local chief executive.

In Bohol, we partnered with the Australian Embassy, Gov. Arthur Yap, and the provincial government to implement the Bohol Communal Garden program, which is focused on empowering rural women by educating them about agricultural innovation to achieve sustainable income and food security. It gave livelihood opportunities during the pandemic while also ensuring their access to fresh produce in the face of logistics challenges.

The climate situation demands collaborative action, and through these projects and similar projects across the globe, we affirm the role and power of women in mitigating change in their communities. We must continue to introduce policies and programs that include and empower our women for the future of our planet.

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Maica Teves is the executive director of Samahan ng mga Pilipina para sa Reporma at Kaunlaran (SPARK Philippines), a nongovernment organization working for women empowerment and gender equality. SPARK is a founding member of PhilWEN.

Women Who Lead is an initiative of the Philippine Women’s Economic Network (PhilWEN).

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TAGS: empowering women, environmental frontliners, Maica Teves, Women Who Lead
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