Braulio E. Dujali, Davao Del Norte – “Gikan ko sa yano nga pamilya ug simple lang ang among panginabuhi. Tong niabot ang Kalahi-CIDSS sa among munisipyo, nahimo kong leader bisan sa ubos nako nga kahimtang. Naghatag og oportunidad ang programa sa ako ug ako kining kinasing kasing nga gidawat kay kabalo ko nga dako kini og maikatabang sa among komunidad (I come from a poor family, leading a simple life. When Kalahi-CIDSS entered our town, I became a leader despite my low social status. The program provided an opportunity which I sincerely accepted because I know it would greatly help my community).”
This came from Thelma Eliseo Villagracia, 60, who was awarded as Best Volunteer under Gender and Development Category in DSWD Kalahi-CIDSS 3rd National Bayani Ka! Awards.
The Kalahi-CIDSS Bayani Ka! Awards seeks to recognize the contribution of program supporters and convene Kalahi-CIDSS volunteer-champions and heroes from different communities.
In celebration of Women’s Month, the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) continues to recognize and advocate the crucial role of women in community development as it leads the observance with the theme, “We Make Change Work for Women”.
Villagracia, a mother of five, is an active volunteer in Kalahi-CIDSS. She leads the operation and maintenance of Kalahi-CIDSS Barangay Sub-Project Management Committee (BSPMC).
Despite the hardships in finishing her studies, she endeavored to pursue it through DepEd’s Alternative Learning System (ALS). At 47, she completed high school and passed the National Acceleration and Equivalency Test.
When Kalahi-CIDSS came to B.E. Dujali in 2015, she led the Operations and Maintenance of BSPMC. She considers her task in Kalahi-CIDSS as one of the most difficult yet exceedingly rewarding.
“Before, people in our community were doubtful on a woman’s ability to lead in managing projects. The tasks in Kalahi-CIDSS like canvassing, budgeting, sub-project monitoring, negotiating with suppliers, and most of all, overseeing the implementation of the sub-project are deemed as a man’s job,” Villagracia recounted.
Undeniably, if one is unschooled in basic business management, these tasks are overwhelming.
But Villagracia was undaunted. She defied the system that typecasts women into mere child care givers, housekeepers, household cooks, etc.
“I dreamt of occupying a position where I could influence and create change in the community. It was the downright segregation of women that pushed me to advocate the capacity and rights of women, in every chance that I could.”
Through various trainings, workshops and campaigns with local communities, Villagracia contributed to a radical shift in how communities perceive women.
“Ang pagsulong sa karapatan ug partisipasyon sa mga kababainhan kaniadto kay lisud sa among komunidad. Pero sa pagsulod sa Kalahi-CIDSS sa among munisipyo, na-awhag ang mga tao hilabi na ang mga kababainhan nga mu-partisipar. Nadungagan ang akong kadasig nga akong pakusgan ang ilahang partisipasyon (In the past, it was difficult to advance women rights and participation. It was during the implementation of Kalahi-CIDSS that people especially women were mobilized to participate. And I was more inspired to strengthen their participation).”
“To be honest, pushing for women’s rights and participation in our community was not easy but when Kalahi-CIDSS entered our municipality, women were encouraged and they felt they wanted to also do something to raise their morale. I too did my best to convince them to participate,” Villagracia said.
Villagracia and her husband are both active volunteers in Kalahi-CIDSS. In fact, they are both hands-on in the implementation of Community Access Roads in Barangay Dujali worth Php 5,067,809.00 with a Local Counterpart Contribution (LCC) worth Php 51,338.00.
Apart from volunteering in Kalahi-CIDSS, Villagracia heads Dagyaw (bayanihan) and the Sagip-Ilog, Sagip-Buhay project, an awareness-raising campaign on environment and disaster preparedness.
Per DSWD XI records, there are 6119 women volunteers in Kalahi-CIDSS. Of this figure, 12% work as laborers in the construction of Kalahi-CIDSS community sub-projects.
“Usa ka pribilehiyo ang magsilbi sa katawhan. Usa ka dakong karangalan ang mahimong isa sa mga instrumento sa pagbag-o sa kababainhan aron matukod ang mga proyekto ubos sa Kalahi-CIDSS (It is a privilege to serve the people. It is a great honor to be one of the instruments in empowering women, enabling them establish projects under Kalahi-CIDSS),” Villagracia declared. (DSWD)