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MONDAYS WITH PATMEI | Women leaders oppose DSWD’s “discriminatory” policies

Former Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) Undersecretary Mae Fe Ancheta-Templa, a friend and sister in the women’s movement, messaged me that I forgot to include their statement in response to the DSWD policy of no bringing of children and no lining up beyond office hours at DSWD in last week’s column entitled “DSWD must provide solutions, not create more problems.”


So I am writing a sequel to that column today to include what the Network of Social Work and Development Advocates for Reforms said about it.


The statement of concern, signed by practically the who’s who in the country’s social work and development field as well as women and gender equality advocates, point out that these recently issued policies of DSWD are “discriminatory and, in fact, anti-poor, oppressive, and fail to be gender-sensitive and responsive.”


“While we acknowledge the importance of ensuring child safety and the efficiency of the Assistance to Individuals in Crisis Situation (AICS) program, we firmly assert that the current policies in place do not align with the principles of inclusivity, social justice, and gender equality that should underscore the operations of such a critical government agency,” the statement said.


Essentially, what these women leaders are pointing out are these DSWD policies should be scrapped because: (1) it is inherently discriminatory and elitist; and (2) it is not gender-sensitive and responsive.


It is discriminatory and elitist, they explained, because the pollcy disregards the diverse and often pressing needs of clients who may be solo parents or caregivers responsible for children.


“It disproportionately affects vulnerable populations who rely on DSWD’s support and services,” they said.


They recommend that DSWD explores alternative solutions such as establishing designated child-friendly areas within their offices or providing childcare support for clients during their visits.


These solutions will be more in line with the agency’s mandate to serve “all segments of society in a more inclusive and equitable manner.”


The group also laments the fact that while DSWD professes to promote gender sensitivity and responsiveness, “the current rules and regulations do not align with these principles.”


“For instance, the policy of restricting clients from waiting in line or being present around DSWD offices beyond specified hours fails to take into account the unique needs and vulnerabilities of women and gender-nonconforming individuals,” the statement noted.


As an alternative, DSWD is urged to adopt gender-sensitive measures, such as providing secure waiting areas that will consider the specific needs of women and LGBTQ+ clients.


As a reminder, the statement listed all the relevant legal and human rights frameworks that support their call for DSWD to abandon their “no children” rule and no lining up for services outside designated office hours.


These are Republic Act No. 7277 or the Magna Carta for Disabled Persons; Republic Act No. 9710 or the Magna Carta of Women; Republic Act No. 8980 or the Early Childhood and Development Act; Republic Act No. 11313 or the Safe Spaces Act; Republic Act No. 8972 or the Solo Parents’ Welfare Act of 2000; the various international conventions ratified by the Philippines protecting and promoting the rights of children and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Violence Against Women or CEDAW; the Universal Declaration of Human Rights; and internal Gender and Development (GAD) policies issued by DSWD.


Meanwhile, the Department of Migrant Workers (DMW) in Davao Region, despite its very limited space, managed to provide a designated nook for breastfeeding mothers and their babies as well as a child-minding space for their Overseas Filipino Workers (OFW) clients.


DMW Davao OIC Regional Director Angela Librado-Trinidad, a known women’s and children’s rights advocate, stressed that their newly established agency aims to be the “home for OFWs and their families,” as envisioned by the late DMW Secretary Susan “Toots” Ople.


On the agency’s official Facebook page, there was a photo of a mother watching over her sleeping baby in a little bed in the breastfeeding nook while waiting for her OFW husband’s documents which are being processed.


The nook was not fancy and it takes little resources to set it up but the extra service was much appreciated by DMW’s clients, giving life to its claim that it is, indeed, the “tahanan ng OFWs.”


I do not understand why government agencies cannot do that in all their offices nationwide when they have GAD budgets equivalent to a minimum of five (5) percent of their total agency budget.


It is so frustrating to always have to remind the government that women make up half of the total population, we should at least utilize half of the resources.


Maybe if we let the men take care of our children, there will be a proliferation of child-minding centers all over our workplaces and communities free of charge. And caregiving will be one of the highest-paid jobs in the country.


DSWD’s policy in question clearly treats women and children as second-class citizens and that violates not only the agency’s mandate, but basic human rights.


We are looking forward to the scrapping of these policies now and requiring instead all DSWD offices to create safe spaces for women and their children.


I can think of many existing spaces that can be converted for that starting with those currently occupied by useless officials and mindless bureaucrats. Let them be the one to stay away from DSWD offices at all hours. For the people’s security and safety.







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