You’d know you have reached the municipality of Capoocan in Southern Leyte if you see giant billboards placed strategically along the National Highway, proudly proclaiming the place as a zone where the rights of women and children are fiercely protected.
The citation now in Capoocan is a far cry from four years ago. Ninety percent of the population of the fourth-class municipality was poor, and women were the most vulnerable to abuse–both within and outside their own homes.
Lack of skills and job opportunities forced women to serve as househelp or even prostitutes. Those who opted to stay home became their jobless husbands’ human punching bags.
Men occupied 70% of the 189 elected positions in the municipality, leaving no place for women to be heard.
To address the problem of women, Capoocan created in 2001 the Program on Gender and Development of Capoocan (PRO-GAD Capoocan). The program covers 21 barangays, most of which are hard to reach. It is funded by the 5% GAD budget, both at the municipal and barangay levels.
PRO-GAD Capoocan is a comprehensive development intervention with the following program components: community organizing, educational training, socio-economic and livelihood development, health and nutrition, and women’s special concerns, namely violence against women and children.
The program encourages women to actively participate in development planning for their barangays. There is also increased access to reproductive health services. Apart from regular health services such as free medicines and consultation, couples are offered family planning services (both natural and artificial methods) and women can also avail of free pap smear. Hilot trainings are conducted regularly to reduce maternal mortality. Nutritional supplements are provided for pregnant and lactating women.
But the biggest accomplishment of PRO-GAD Capoocan is the increase in the reporting of cases on violence against women and children (VAWC) as a result of an intensive campaign. Today, the number of habitual VAW perpetrators has decreased by a staggering 98%.
Because of an active gender advocacy campaign, both men and women in Capoocan are now more aware of each other’s rights and responsibilities. And with the more active participation of the men in gender advocacy, PRO-GAD Capoocan is now campaigning for the total eradication of VAWC cases.
This program is recognized as one of the Ten Outstanding Programs in the 2005 Galing Pook Awards.