Fields of Hope: Women empowered through peace and dev’t projects in Sorsogon
GUBAT, SORSOGON - The scorching afternoon sun illuminates her bronze skin as she walks a mile or two to the newly built irrigation area.
Today, she is going to check if everything in the site is in order. It's her job to do so.
Over and through the rice fields, she leaps and walks, and leaps and walks, as if doing so is her second nature. She does not mind the heat, and the distance. She is used to it. In fact, going to the field has never been this good for her, or for anyone in Barangay Sta. Ana, Gubat, Sorsogon—for they see hope.
She is Vilma Espinida, a mother of two and the first woman to be voted as councilor in their barangay. At the age of 42, she has the eyes that speak of optimism like that of a child of five. As she walks us through the rice fields, she talks of how the 1.5-kilometer irrigation system came to be.
She says that the Sorsogon Initiatives—a program for peace and development funded by the Agencia Española Cooperacion Internacional para el Desarollo or AECID of the Spanish government in collaboration with the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process, Department of Local and Interior Government, and Local Government Academy—brought in projects like concrete roads, new irrigation systems, repaired school buildings and livelihood programs. She tells us how the projects have benefited the people in their community.
Vilma recalls that before Sorsogon Initiatives, the families in their area engaged in fights over water supply for irrigation in their fields, particularly during summer. Women would struggle walking through miles of muddy roads that were inaccessible to tricycles, to bring bananas, cassava and other produce to the market. On rainy days, their children would take their lessons inside rundown classrooms, careful not to have their notebooks drenched with water trickling from leaky roofs.
With the advent of the program, Vilma relates how the women and their families now enjoy the convenience brought about by the concreted road in Sitio Apgo, the access road from Barangay Beriran to Carriedo, and the newly-repaired Sta. Ana Elementary School building. Farmers no longer fight among themselves because the rehabilitated and expanded Sitio Puro communal irrigation system has given their fields proper irrigation. There is high hopes among the families for an increase in harvest.
Community leaders like Vilma were given conflict sensitivity training, human rights and peace education seminar-workshops, among others.
Women as well as youth are soon to benefit from the cassava production project set to be implemented also under the Sorsogon Initiatives.
Ever since the implementation of the projects, women in Sta. Ana have taken on a more active role in ensuring the success of the projects by supporting and participating in the activities. For Vilma and the other women, the program has not only provided them and their families the comforts of infrastructure improvement. It has enhanced their position as leaders who decide for the future of their communities.
Taking a short breather from her inspection near the cemented irrigation canals, Vilma now surveys the rice fields that turn gold and green under the sun with pride. Smiling, she tells us that the grains will be ready for harvest in two weeks. #