Zonta Club of Central Tuguegarao plants vegetable garden for dormitory

In 2015, the Zonta Club of Central Tuguegarao, Philippines, built a female dormitory in Peñablanca, Cagayan, to decrease young girls' traveling distance to school. The club found out that one of the main reasons students, especially girls, did not attend school was because they had to travel long distances and cross rivers with limited modes of transportation. Every day, the students would wake up at dusk and walk 2-3 hours to get to school on time.

During bad weather, students would also have to stay overnight at an abandoned house near the Peñablanca East National High School, which serves five barangays in the far-flung areas of the town. With no exclusive housing for the female students, they were at risk of becoming victims of sexual assault and pregnant at an early age. 

The club has always advocated for preventing teenage pregnancy and ensuring every woman and girl has the right to education to achieve gender equality. Thus, the dormitory project came to life to allow an easier commute for the female students while also providing them security and safety. 

Around 15 students and nine teachers have been recipients of this project. The dormitory has rooms, a living area and a kitchen. The club has sustained the dormitory and conducted livelihood training for the residents and non-residing female high school students. When the pandemic hit, education shifted from in-person to online classes. The dorm residents had to go home, and the dorm temporarily closed.

The club members are hopeful that the pandemic will end as in-person classes will possibly resume in June. In anticipation, the club has
started to prepare for the dorm resident's return, such as providing a vegetable garden. In preparation, the club requested the Department of Agriculture for vegetable seeds. 

On February 12, the club planted an array of vegetables at the dormitory. When the time comes for harvest, the garden will become an extra food source and augment the residents' financial resources.

The pandemic has put women and girls among those who are most vulnerable. The club has devised ways to ensure safe living conditions and provide resources for food and economic opportunities. There are other plans on the horizon. Ultimately, the end goal is to empower these girls and offer them better access to education and a brighter future.