To highlight its celebration of Women’s Month this year, the Senate Electoral Tribunal (SET) conducted Gender and Development (GAD) activities in the Province of Pangasinan on March 11-12, 2015.

Designed to increase the awareness of SET employees on the importance of women’s participation in all levels of policy and decision-making and to expose them to the strategies and best practices employed by successful women entrepreneurs, these activities, lined up and coordinated by the SET Planning Office and the SET Gender and Development Focal Point System (GFPS), included:

Field Exposure and Immersion in the Community of San Fabian Local Council for Women (SFLCW).- The first stop of the SET employees was at the Municipality of San Fabian. Former San Fabian Mayor Irene Libunao led the Officers and Members of the San Fabian Local Council for Women, Incorporated (SFLCWI) Multi-Purpose Cooperative (Cooperative) in welcoming the SET employees. In her short welcome speech, she expressed appreciation as well as surprise that SET took interest in the Cooperative.

After a briefing on the Cooperative’s history, policies, struggles and victories given by the officers of the Cooperative, Atty. Irene R. Guevarra, Secretary of the Tribunal, presented a plaque of appreciation signed by the Honorable Tribunal Chairperson Senior Associate Justice Antonio T. Carpio. She said that the Cooperative served as a sterling example of government and private enterprise cooperation and how financial support from the local government had been “nurtured” (pinagyaman).

A tour of the SFLCWI Cooperative Office, Training Center and Pasalubong Center followed. The Cooperative Office was built through the members’ efforts and support from the Local Government and has served as the business center where the members apply for loans and receive business advice, among others.

At the SFLCW Training Center for Sardines and Boneless Bangus-Making, the SET employees were given a step-by-step orientation on the production process and given the chance to purchase the mouth-watering food products. At the Pasalubong Center, the SET employees were treated to one of Pangasinan’s famous delicacies – “tupig” – an elongated version of rice cake made of slightly grilled mashed sticky rice and thin fresh coconut strips wrapped in fragrant banana leaves. Along with banana and “kamote” chips, bottled sardines and boneless bangus, vinegar, and fermented fish paste and sauce, tupig was one of the best-selling products at the Center.

SFLCW was the recipient of the Award for Women’s Empowerment at the Local Government Unit Level of the Province of Pangasinan.

Lecture-Forum with the Urban Program for Livelihood Finance and Training (UPLIFT) at Lingayen, Pangasinan.- On the second day, March 12, 2015, SET welcomed the representatives of the UPLIFT, a non-governmental organization (NGO) which advocates women’s empowerment through economic upliftment. UPLIFT Area Manager Roneo Roberto recounted the success stories of women-recipients of the UPLIFT’s micro-financing assistance program in line with its mandate to empower women in the lower strata of society. The lively discussion on the history and evolution of UPLIFT as well as the colorful experiences of the people behind UPLIFT, followed by an open forum further enlightened the SET employees on sound lending-borrowing and entrepreneurship practices.

Site Visits to Cottage Industries Dominated by Women in Calasiao, Mangaldan and Urdaneta, Pangasinan.- To complete their field immersion, the SET employees visited three places with cottage industries dominated by women, namely: (1) Calasiao – famous for the “Puto Calasiao,” a small round sweetened soft rice snacks of the Filipinos since the advent of the concept of “bread” in the Filipino culture. Because of its popularity, the production of Puto-Calasiao has become a cottage industry under the Calasiao Puto Producers and Vendors Association. Puto-Calasiao is now produced and sold by the kilos; (2) Mangaldan– known for its peanut-brittle and other sweets/candy-making industry; and (3) Urdaneta City – known for its abundant supply of boneless bangus, fresh fruits and vegetables, dried fish, fermented fish and shrimps paste and sauces that come in overwhelmingly much lower prices in the market stalls mostly managed by women-farmers and vendors.

Judging from the enthusiastic participation of all SET employees in all of the slated activities, this year’s Women’s Month Celebration was an evident success.- by: Ma. Cel-Sa S. Palomar.