The month of March every year is marked with the celebration of International Women’s Month.
The event is celebrated to recognize the achievements of women who stood out throughout time, and to come together for causes that advance women’s rights and gender equality. This year’s theme set by the United Nations for the month-long celebration is “Women in leadership: Achieving an equal future in a COVID-19 world.”
In the Philippine context, the theme “Juana Laban sa Pandemya: Kaya!” highlights the extraordinary roles of “Juanas” in the society as “trailblazers and harbingers of change” especially in these difficult circumstances with the pandemic even exacerbating the issues women have long faced.
As we conclude the month-long celebration, here are messages from some of the inspiring and outstanding Palaweñas who have showcased exemplary dedication to their fields and have fought through life’s challenges to achieve an equal future.
Marvi Trudeau is the deputy executive director of Pilipinas Shell Foundation, Inc. (PSFI). For years, she has been very active in programs such as Kilusan Ligtas Malaria and other outreach activities in the community. During the pandemic, she spearheaded the implementation of the Palawan-leg of the foundation’s Para sa Bayani (For the Heroes) Campaign in response to the lockdown caused by COVID-19.
“Philippines has one the most empowered women of the world. Despite the inequalities in some areas, the Filipinas are generally in better position than in many of our women counterparts in the other parts of the world. Still, it is awesome to see women leaders who excel in community service and is giving so much time and passion to help address some of the social issues of the communities. Yet these women continue to excel in the other more traditional roles in their lives particularly in the family setting. Juggling these roles and responsibilities can be very challenging and stressful. Yet many Filipinas are actually doing just fine. For those women who seem to be able to do a great job in playing these multi-roles, work hard, dream big and strive hard to follow your dreams. The opportunities in this time and age are limitless.”
Atty. Grizelda Mayo-Anda
Atty. “Gerthie” is a law professor and public interest attorney advocating for legal empowerment towards environmental justice in the last 30 years. She established the Environmental Legal Assistance Center (ELAC) in 1990, now one of the Philippine’s most active NGOs working to empower communities and local stakeholders to protect their natural resources. Atty. Anda engages with government and private entities in making sure that women’s rights as well as the rights of the poor and marginalized communities are recognized by the government as the latter pursues its COVID-19 programs.
“A woman needs to work doubly hard in order to prove her strength and capacity because of, among others, our “physicality” as compared to men’s physical make-up. The dominant perspective (as shown by Pres. Digong) is that women are generally incapable of holding key leadership roles. There is still a failure to appreciate the significance of the reproductive roles of women (managing the household, organizing finances, nurturing the spouse and children, promoting the values of honesty, industry, thrift and integrity) and the inherent contribution of these roles to developing the community’s bayanihan spirit.”
Fondly known as “Beth” by friends and colleagues, Elizabeth Maclang is the park superintendent of the Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park (PPSRNP), one of the New Seven Wonders of Nature and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
“Working as a park superintendent, I have to assure together with the park staff, the balance between the economic activities of the communities residing in the park, and its ecosystem status. Conservation and protection of its outstanding universal value and high conservation areas deserve an efficient and effective means of management amidst of pandemic. As a woman, know where your heart wants to be, dream low which is achievable and feel what passion calls you and always be proud in what you do with humility.
Jemimah Joy Zabala
The newly-crowned Miss Puerto Princesa 2021, Jemimah Joy Zabala, is a registered psychometrician working in Palawan State University Office of the Student Affairs. Aside from her career, she also takes part in mental health programs that aim to assist “kapwa Puerto Princesans” in dealing with the “new normal” life.
“I believe that it is during the darkest times that a light can truly shine. Women are known as the ‘Ilaw ng Tahanan’ in our culture and I believe that women really took part in helping the society to come together as one, at naging tunay na ‘Ilaw ng Lipunan’. This challenging times have just become an opportunity for women like me to shed their lights, serve the community and truly show that women can really face and conquer challenges.”
Alysha Ariella J. Ricaplaza
The vlogger and young advocate for environmental conservation and protection who was once featured in Palawan News, Alysha Ricaplaza is a 13-year old young lady who is still exploring the world. For her, to be a young woman in the midst of the pandemic is difficult because her emotions are getting unstable. But despite this, she still pursued her passion of bringing inspiration in terms of environmental protection to her fellow youth and Palaweños.
“For the future I would like to see people respecting nature and use less single use plastics and more biodegradable or sustainable materials.”