In 24 indigenous and local communities in the Philippines, women are at the forefront of facilitating efforts that address pressing community issues and vulnerabilities, especially on defending the environment.
Through the Women Environmental Defenders (WE-Defend) program, Samdhana supports Cohorts—-individuals who have had long years and experience in leading their community, and Fellows—-individuals who are taking up the challenge and stepping in as next generation leaders, to learn and practice new skills in pursuit of their respective communities’ goals.
The 12-month program also provides them the opportunity to interact and exchange stories and ideas with other women environmental defenders from across the country, so that together they may reflect on their collective experiences, and gain fresh insights that will enrich their individual capacities and that of their community network.
Each of the Cohorts and Fellows is provided micro grants to implement their personal and community projects through a period of six to eight months. A number of the emerging leaders will undergo internship in other fields, like that in media, legal practice and research to further advance their leadership skills and capacities.
Samdhana welcomed the first batch of eight Cohorts and 16 Fellows during the program’s launch last May 29 to June 2, 2022 in Lantapan, Bukidnon. They come from 11 tribes/ ethnicities, namely, Tala-andig, Higaonon, Subanen, Blaan, Agusanon Manobo, Menuvu Kerintiken, Calamian Tagbanwa, Bisaya, Bukidnon, Tboli-Blaan, and Dibabawon.
In discussions about their community struggle, the Cohorts and Fellows acknowledged that being in the frontline is never easy, especially as the concern of protecting the environment is normally a gargantuan issue.
But Marcela Octaviano, 52, a Tboli-Blaan Cohort from Koronadal City, South Cotabato, is optimistic “feminine energy and women’s innate capacity” will be their asset in making a difference for their communities.
“Women are gifted with the competence to nurture every member of the community, rooted in their experiences to heal and provide and care for life,” Octaviano said.
This post was written by Sabrina Balais & Samdhana KMRD Team