Across the Philippines, community groups are becoming trained and organised to make their communities inclusive and safe places for marginalised groups.
As part of the social protection project, community-based advocacy and monitoring groups are looking into how suitable their communities are for groups such as senior citizens and people with disabilities.
The project, being run alongside the Philippine Consortium for Social Protection with funding from the European Union, is being run in the provinces of Masbate, Samar, Northern Samar and Eastern Samar. It aims to strengthen the government’s social protection programmes and policies by developing the capacity of community groups to represent and protect marginalised people.
Since 2016, training sessions, partnership building, advocacy and policy reviews have been taking place with community groups.
Linking communities and decision-makers
The members of the community groups have come to see themselves as bridges between their fellow community members and government officials, raising awareness of any issues and helping their peers get support.
“It is important people know someone can help them. It is not only the barangay who should implement the projects,” says Marites, 44.
The project has also been hugely beneficial for the members of the community groups, giving them new skills and greater agency.
“I used to say, “Can I do this? I am from a marginalised group and I am going to talk to high-level officials.” Before, I looked down on myself because I am not an equal,” said Hazel of Salcedo, Eastern Samar.
New skills and responsibilities
The community groups have been equipped with the skills to carry out citizen satisfaction surveys, focus group discussions and share their findings with the local authorities.
“When you are in these groups you have to practice perseverance and punctuality. Respect is also important in approaching people, for instance, those who cannot read or write,” said a member of a group in Northern Samar.
As a result of their work, they are seeing differences in their communities. In Samar a Persons With Disabilities Affairs Office has been established and is being led by a person with disabilities.
In Masbate, the community group managed to increase local government funding for activities to support people with disabilities. In addition, they have also been working on improvements to the social pension system.
Overall, the community groups have managed to change peoples’ perceptions about elderly people receiving a social pension and the services needed to support people with disabilities.
The communities’ idea of Plan International’s purpose is also evolving. Aside from the construction and child sponsorship projects the organisation has been known for, they now appreciate that Plan International’s work also includes developing the capabilities of community members to be active citizens.