With new projects and initiatives, the Zonta Club of Ilocos Norte, District 17, is focusing on encouraging men to advocate for ending violence against women, engaging community members in discussions about empowering women, and raising awareness of the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals.
The Zonta Club of Ilocos Norte, based in Laoag City, Philippines, has long made an effort to include men in the discussion and advocacy action for ending violence against women and girls. Four years ago, the club invited young boys to participate in forums conducted on teenage pregnancy and early marriage. Since that forum, the club has continued the efforts, recently hosting three forums to encourage male advocacy. The forums were held during the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence in 2016 and in March 2017 for Women’s Month. A forum was also held in 2017 as part of the HeForShe campaign.
The events were titled “The Male Advocate Forum: Engaging Men as Co-Advocates for Gender Equality,” and aimed to raise awareness of the causes, prevention, and psychological consequences of abuse and violence against women and girls. The club members also hoped to emphasize women’s rights with a discussion on laws as well as statistics on violence against women, anti-trafficking of persons, men and women’s health concerns, and the Magna Carta of Women, which promotes empowerment of women and the pursuit of equal opportunities for women and men in the Philippines.
The club members hosted these events because they believe working with men on these concerns brings a greater understanding of the importance of women in the society thereby resulting in the achievement of gender equality.
Similarly, the members want to focus on educating and informing women as a way for them to become more empowered. This is why the club launched a radio program, “Usapang Babae at Iba Pa,” which roughly translates to "Women and others." The program airs every Wednesday over the most popular AM radio station in the northern region of the Philippines.
The weekly radio interviews launched 8 March, International Women’s Day, and covers topics such as ending human trafficking, HIV/AIDS awareness, women’s rights, the Magna Carta on Women, and preventing all forms of violence against women and children.
The project is done in partnership with the radio station, DWFB Radyo Ng Pilipinas Laoag.
Club members say they hope the radio interviews will empower women and girls in the community by providing information they can learn from and use to their benefit. It is also an opportunity for the Zontians in the club to become more effective ambassadors of the Zonta mission. Members of the Zonta Club of Ilocos Norte, visiting Zontians, members from other government and non-government organizations and institutions, private individuals, women and men all take part in the radio program.
The Committee on Public Relation and Communications handles the schedule for the weekly interviews and negotiations are underway for taped broadcasts of the interviews to be shown on local cable TV stations.
Additionally, the club is working to gather support for the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals, specifically Goal 5, which focuses on empowering women and girls.
The Zonta Club of Ilocos Norte reached out to the city and municipal mayors of their province through petition letters seeking endorsement to local councils for the passage of resolutions and ordinances in support of Sustainable Development Goal 5. Attached to the petition letter was the request for the support on the implementation of the Magna Carta of Women.
The initiative has received positive responses and more than half of the 21 municipalities and two cities the club has visited have passed the resolutions. With the passage of a resolution in support of the goal, the club is offering to host a corresponding forum on women’s empowerment in each municipality.
Because of their work, the Zonta Club of Ilocos Norte has been accredited by the Provincial Government of Ilocos Norte as a group representing women’s rights and interests. With that recognition comes a seat on the Provincial Development Council, a council within the Social Development Committee. The council assists the Sangguniang Panlalawigan, or Provincial Council, in setting the direction of economic and social development in the province.
This will serve as another avenue for the club to continue to advocate for rights for women and girls in the Philippines.