Dignifying the human rights of PDLs | Inquirer Opinion
Women who lead

Dignifying the human rights of PDLs

/ 05:04 AM January 04, 2024


On Dec. 10, 1948, the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) was signed at the Palais de Chaillot in Paris, France. Article 2 of the document proclaims that everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms articulated in it “… without distinction of any kind, such as race, color, sex, language, religion, political, or other opinions, national or social origin, property, birth, or other status.”

In 2023, the conference commemorating the UDHR anniversary was hosted by the French government and recognized our work in human rights for persons deprived of liberty (PDLs). French President Emmanuel Macron’s rousing elaboration of the continuing fight to protect the human rights of everyone regardless of their status puts a deeply inspiring dimension to the significance and basis of the recognition.

This is because our work with PDLs in Quezon City, as part of Mayor Joy Belmonte’s “No Woman Left Behind” program, is founded on the belief that productivity knows no boundaries, and that PDLs, whose situation is made even more difficult by discrimination, prejudice, and stigma, deserve as much opportunity for economic and personal empowerment as other marginalized women in our society. Samahan ng mga Pilipina para sa Reporma at Kaunlaran’s (SPARK Philippines) collaboration with Belmonte includes providing livelihood opportunities and empowerment projects for PDLs.


Among our flagship projects was repurposing election campaign tarpaulins into designer bags beautifully created by talented designer Zarah Juan. Under the “Vote to Tote” project, sewing machines and worktables were donated, with PDLs employed as sewers. Applying the principles of gender equality, sustainable development, and economic empowerment, the project upcycled used campaign materials while providing PDLs with a chance to earn for their families and encouraging them to envision a productive path for themselves when they re-enter society.

The concept for the project came about when Belmonte invited me to visit the female PDLs’ dorm where I saw the women’s untapped potential. They are among the most marginalized sectors—often invisible, overlooked, and stigmatized. Yet, they were also among those who have shown genuine love for their families and a fervent hope for their future. They are an integral part of our commitment to build a better, more equitable, and more inclusive future for all Filipino women.

The “Vote to Tote” project was recognized as an outstanding program by the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology, and we look forward to it serving as a model project for other detention facilities. We believe that dignifying the rights of PDLs also means empowering them, so we gave them the opportunity to exercise their freedom of creative expression. With the French embassy’s support of this project that was aligned with International Human Rights Day, French artists worked alongside the PDLs to paint murals on their dorm walls signifying their hopes and dreams. The project coincided with the 75th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the Philippines and France.

The French embassy has also supported Women’s Month activities for the past four years, and was one of the stakeholders at the successful Rights for All, Rights For Equality forum held to commemorate International Human Rights Day in December 2022, and the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence.


To date, we continue our economic and personal empowerment projects for PDLs by providing them with opportunities for e-learning through our donation of laptops and tablets that keep them connected to their loved ones online. We have also worked with L’Oréal in donating hygiene and beauty kits to PDLs to highlight how self-care is an important aspect of mental health.

I am truly grateful to the Embassy of France in the Philippines for supporting our causes and to the French government for acknowledging the value and impact of our work. This recognition inspires us to do more because the work never ends. Fortunately, every day is an opportunity to create something good for the benefit of others. In our efforts to do so, we can hopefully bring safety, comfort, and financial stability to more Filipino women and girls.



Maica Teves is executive director of SPARK Philippines, a nongovernment organization working for women’s empowerment and gender equality. SPARK is a founding member of PhilWEN.

Your subscription could not be saved. Please try again.
Your subscription has been successful.

Subscribe to our daily newsletter

By providing an email address. I agree to the Terms of Use and acknowledge that I have read the Privacy Policy.


Women Who Lead is an initiative of PhilWEN.

TAGS: people deprived of liberty, prisoners’ rights

© Copyright 1997-2024 INQUIRER.net | All Rights Reserved

We use cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. By continuing, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. To find out more, please click this link.