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MINDANAO: I didn’t realize it would take that long to reach the village of Campawan in Baganga, the proposed site for the child- and women-friendly spaces for the typhoon-stricken town, ravaged by Bopha, known locally as Pablo, about six weeks ago.
We crossed a small river via a raft, where a bridge used to facilitate the movement of people from the village to the rest of the town, and took a six-kilometre motorcycle ride to where the school is. The trip was particularly challenging because it had been raining the past few days and the roads were muddy and slippery.
School has started in the village but with only a few of the school buildings left usable, classes have to be in shifts. Each grade is only afforded one day per week for their classes. Unfortunately even that limited time is compromised when the weather is bad -- as was the case on the day we went there when classes were called off again. The situation is much more difficult for high-school students because the village doesn’t have a high school and they have to travel to another village to be able to go to school.
No houses, no school, no electricity, no TV – children try to make do with what they have. Small bottles they put water in and squeeze onto each other’s legs and feet to remove the mud. Scraps of wood made into toy trucks with scraps of slippers for the wheels. And they also have each other’s company.
Some of the adolescent girls we met there were trying to make themselves busy looking on at an on-going village meeting. A few were in the river washing clothes. We saw some boys bringing into the village scraps of galvanized iron sheets they can sell. A few older boys and some men were playing billiards. And some more of the adults – women and men alike – were in the meeting validating the names of the residents and discussing about the criteria for a soon-to-be launched cash-for-work project.
They all seem to be holding up – but for how long?
What if the children could have structured, fun learning activities that could, aside from developing their cognitive abilities, also help them get over their frightening experience of the typhoon, especially on days when the school cannot accommodate them?
What if adolescents, especially girls, could come together, share each other’s experiences and have sessions on topics that interest them?
What if women could have a place they feel safe to share their concerns with other women and learn new skills?
In partnership with UNICEF, UNFPA and some donor agencies, Plan International is setting up child-and women-friendly spaces in some of the areas that have been hit by typhoon Bopha as part of a comprehensive programme for relief and recovery.
It may be logistically difficult to put up these spaces in places such as Campawan, but as community development facilitator Albert Delgado says, “This is where the need is greatest.” Crossing a river and going through the long and muddy road to Campawan is such a trivial matter in the grand scheme of things.
-- Lydia Domingo is gender advisor for Plan International in the Philippines.