Defying stereotypes

Sharing this article from Maricar M. Calubiran 
of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD)

Construction site is no place for a woman, but not for the 24-year-old Monica Nama, who works side by side with men, and two other women, in the building of Kalahi-CIDSS-funded health station in Guinatuan, Madalag, Aklan.

Her mere presence in that male-dominated workplace exudes empowerment and defies gender bias, a glaring message that the desire to help and be of help to the community knows no bounds.

Monica giggles when asked what it feels like to work in a construction site.

“Indi man ini bag-o dahil gina-obra ko man ini sa balay. Ginabuligan ko akon asawa sa pag kaayo sang amon balay (The experience is not new to me because I also help my husband when he repairs our house),” she says.

Wearing a shorts and a t-shirt, she fetches water from a tiny hole dug near the structure, not minding that her lower part of the body is soaking wet.

“Ang pagsag-ob ginaobra ko man adlaw-adlaw sa balay (I am fetching water every day),” adding there is no difference between fetching water at home and in the site.

Though her face is smeared with cement powder, she is beaming with pride with what she’s doing.

“Wala man sang kinalain sa sini nga obra (construction work). Wala man ako nalisdan sa pag samo sang semento, balas kag bato. Ang mga babaye gaobra man sang trabaho sang lalaki ugaling sa sulod lang sang ila panimalay. Ang babaye naga bis-ak man sang kahoy para gamiton sa pagluto. Gapakaon man ako sang amon mga manok kag baboy sa balay (This work is not different from what I do every day. I don’t find it difficult to mix the cement with the gravel and sand. Women are also doing men’s work only that it is within the confines of their household. Women also cut firewood for cooking. I also feed our chicken and pigs at home).”

Monica smilingly picks up the pieces of wood used as scaffolding and transfers these to an area away from the health station.

“Indi man mabug-at (It is not heavy),” she says.

Monica works like any other worker in the construction of Guinatuan health station.
Monica says young women must know that working as a laborer is a great job. Aside from the daily wages she receives, she is grateful for being part of the work force constructing the barangay health station.

“Wala ako nahuya nga makita ako sang mga tawo gaobra sa construction site (I am not ashamed that people see me working in the construction site),” she says, adding that women’s help in the completion of the health station is valuable.

Monica notes that every resident of the community will benefit from the project, urging other women in the village to try what she tried. She says though the Kalahi-CIDSS is new to them, they are embracing the process to address the villagers’ need for a health station. They even contributed to help reach the village target local cash contribution.

Monica is part of the group who presented the village’s project during the Municipal Inter-Barangay Forum (MIBF) in 2011.  She played the role of a pregnant woman, who finds it difficult to cross the river to avail check up.

Villagers portray during the MIBF that they need to cross the river before they can avail of health services 

 “Wala man kami ga reklamo nga buhinan ang amon sweldo sang PhP20. Bale, P200 ang sweldo namon, ang P20 bulig namon para matapos ang health station. Magabaton na lang kami P180   Bisan buhinan man may health station na kami sa pila ka adlaw.  Nalipay man kami kay amo nga project pangayon namon (We did not complain that P20 will be deducted from our daily wage. Our wage is supposed to be P200, P20 is our contribution to finish the health station. We will only receive P180. Even if there is deduction yet we will have our new health station someday. We are happy because we proposed for that project),” she says.

Monica notes the importance of the project to the villagers. She says women and even men of Guinatuan have to go to Brgy Paningayan to get medical assistance.

To get to that village, the group has to cross a river. They are also paying much for the boat ride especially when there is flood. In normal days, they pay PhP40 back and forth.

Kalahi-CIDSS is changing the perception that women are not welcome in the construction work of its funded project. Thus, it encourages gender equality and participation of more women in what is considered as man’s world. Its gender equality program in the town of Madalag is working to create a welcoming environment for all women in the village.

Today, women become more visible and recognized. But the hiring of women as construction workers in Kalahi-CIDSS is not new.  The Project is making affirmative action for women’s involvement and providing them support measures in its gender and development enhancement. 

For a new Kalahi-CIDSS municipality, women’s participation in once male-dominated work place is about reaching a balance with other gender.
Monica says she is not intimidated to be surrounded by men because they came from the same community.

Her number is not significant in terms of total male laborers and skilled workers in the construction site. However, Kalahi-CIDSS is breaking this stereotyping by casting in women in the man’s world.

Monica says there is a role for everyone in the work site. There is no question that men are physically powerful.  It is important to know about your limitations.

“Ang mga lalaki lang ang gapamanday kag gasaka sa taas bubong (Male workers do the carpentry works and they also climb the roof).”

People should not be surprised if they will see women working in the construction site. As a housewife, she can still do the things expected of her, like waking up early and preparing the needs of her husband and child.

“Ang akon anak na enroll sa Day Care kag malapit lang diri sa ginaobra nga health center. Mabantayan ko man sa gihapon  bisan gaobra ako (My child is enrolled in the day care center which is a distance throw from the constructed health station. I can still look after him while working).”

For Monica, the dirt and gritty side of construction does not matter because there is no discrimination in the working place. Moreover, her gender is not an issue with the implementation of Kalahi-CIDSS projects in Madalag.* 

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