#1 Providing Substitute
Since 1991, the Department of Social Welfare and Development has been assisting women in difficult circumstances through centres which provide substitute home care. Three Substitute Home Care centres were piloted in 1991/1992, providing services to just under 2000 women in two years, and a fourth was added at the end of the pilot. By 1998, the centre in Alabang (Metropolitan Manila) alone assisted almost 1200 women in one year.
The centres assist adult women victims of forced prostitution, illegal recruitment, battering, rape, incest and armed conflict. Each centre has a residential service providing temporary shelter, food, clothing and personal care items. In addition, they offer a wide range of support services, including legal services, counselling, casework, groupwork and help with transportation expenses. One of the centres has a complete team of medical personnel who can provide physical examinations, dental check-ups, tests for sexually transmitted diseases, psychiatric evaluation and treatment. The remaining centres treat minor injuries in-house, and refer cases that need more extensive medical treatment to government hospitals.
Skills development programs are another important component of the Substitute Home Care centre services. Maternal and child care skills development covers environmental sanitation, self-care for women, early childhood disorders, growth monitoring and immunisation. Self-enhancement and social communication skills development aims to increase women's self image through understanding their potential, and improving basic written and oral communication skills. Under livelihood skills development, women learn various handicrafts, food processing techniques and basic management. As they leave the Home Care centre they are given a small amount of money to help them start up their own micro-enterprises.
Once clients leave the Substitute Homes they are referred to Field Offices of the Department of Social Welfare and Development for assistance in re-integrating with their immediate families, extended relatives and community.
#2 Providing Crisis
Support to Victims
The Bathaluman Crisis Centre Foundation Inc is a non-profit organization established in 1991 by a group of women activists, women from churches, women professionals and concerned men with a common concern for female survivors of violence. The Foundation provides a support systems, including a service and referral centre, to help survivors deal with their physical trauma.
The BCCF Centre admits survivors of violence against women aged 15 and over, with those under 15 considered on a case-by-case basis. Victims may have suffered from rape, incest, wife battering, abandonment or militarisation. Support Group Volunteers provide assistance, and psychological interventions may also be initiated at the centre. Where appropriate, cases are referred to other agencies for more specialist assistance.
From 1991 to 1998 the centre assisted 326 victims of violence against women, including providing shelter to 87 women and 45 children. Other services included legal and medical assistance, counselling, group therapy, occupational therapy, and education on a broad range of topics related to violence against women.
#3 Developing a
Comprehensive Community Response to Violence
In Davao City, strong cooperation between government, non-government and academic organizations has led to the Community Response to Violence against Women project (CORESVAW). The project is led by the Development of People's Foundation (DPF), in close partnership with the Mindanao Working Group on Reproductive Health, Gender and Sexuality.
The CORESVAW project aims to strengthen the capacity of local government and grassroots women to respond to gender violence and reproductive health problems, using three main strategies - training, research and advocacy. It has had a strong emphasis on collaboration and consultation, and is overseen by a Coordinating Council representing government and non-government agencies covering health, social services, police, law enforcement and local government.
The project has targeted selected women village leaders, aiming to increase their awareness of the prevention of family violence. It has also attempted to mobilise government and non-government health and health-related agencies to respond to family violence.
Various seminars and training sessions have been held on topics such as feminist counselling, gender sensitivity, prostitution and trafficking of women, and identifying and assisting survivors of battering. To complement this, CORESVAW have produced a set of treatment protocols and a VAW primer. In addition, the project has facilitated the launch of the Women and Children's Protection Unit at the Davao Medical Centre, and a Community/Church-based Intervention Centre for Domestic Violence.
Project representatives have also participated in public investigations on unethical practices in law enforcement, and in drafting and implementing the Women Development Code. This code is a landmark in local government legislation, recognising women as full and equal partners of men in development planning and nation building. It seeks to design, adopt and implement gender-responsive development policies, support systems, and measures, to protect and promote the rights of women.
#4 Creating Women
Friendly Environments in Hospitals
Since 1995, the Department of Health and the Women's Crisis Centre have been jointly piloting a government hospital-based crisis and healing centre for victims of violence against women. The initiative, Project HAVEN, attempts to provide a holistic health care system within a gender-sensitive and women-friendly environment in a hospital setting. It is hoped that the project will eventually be replicated and institutionalised within the government health care system.
The Project HAVEN Centre was established at the East Avenue Medical Centre (EAMC) in Quezon City, which services the "poor and deprived". Initially, two counsellors from WCC and the head of the EAMC Women and Children's Protection Unit went to Australia to attend a short university course on women's health, and to observe the operations of a hospital-based crisis centre. The Project then provided training in VAW-related counselling, and in gender-sensitive handling of victims, to project staff and ninety other health professionals from EAMC and other government hospitals.
In 1997, EAMC designated a spacious newly-renovated wing as a hospital-based crisis intervention centre. Victims of violence against women are referred here for counselling and other services provided by the Women's Crisis Centre, such as medical, psycho-social, legal, material and financial assistance. From 1997 to 1998, there was a total of 980 new cases.
The Project is now finalising training modules on violence against women for health professionals and advocates. However, it is recognised that a "one-shot" training course will not change attitudes and behaviour until participants internalise the principles of gender sensitivity. Protocols, systematic data gathering, and monitoring, will all be needed to ensure that health care delivery is improved for victims and survivors of violence against women.
#5 A Feminists Approach
The Women's Crisis Centre (WCC), established in 1989, pioneered crisis work with women in the Philippines. In addition to providing temporary shelter, medical assistance and advocacy, legal assistance and advocacy, and stress management, it has two particularly innovative components - Feminist Counselling, and a Survivors Support Group.
The main goal of Feminist Counselling is the empowerment of women. It is based on the principle that abused women, particularly survivors of sexual violence, should only be treated by female counsellors or therapists.
When Feminist Counselling was first introduced into WCC, services were reviewed to determine what was needed to effectively support and empower women. One of the most significant changes was the introduction of the Survivors Support Group. This group creates a supportive and affirming environment in which women who have survived violence can interact with other survivors through group counselling, education programs, recreation activities or skills training.
WCC was also instrumental in promoting Feminist Counselling in the Philippines, arranging for training to be available to all interested parties through the Kalayaan Feminist School. Eventually the University of the Philippines established the Centre for Women's Studies, which is now offering Introduction to Feminist Counselling as a Graduate Course. Today almost all crisis centres in the Philippines are based on Feminist Counselling, and the Philippine National Police have adopted its principles in setting up Police Women's Desks all across the country.
#6 Highlighting the
Role of Health Professionals in Violence Prevention
Although most violence against women occurs "behind closed doors", the survivors almost invariably come into contact with a health professional. Here the social stigma is minimised, and the effects of the violence can be disguised under a wide range of other health problems. This places hospital-based workers, especially those in the emergency section, in a strategic position to assist survivors of abuse. If trained to detect the subtle signs of crisis, they can help to prevent further violence.
Recognising this opportunity, the Philippine General Hospital has created a Women's Desk as part of its Crisis Centre. This is a five-year multi-disciplinary project (1998-2002) providing training, services, research, information dissemination and advocacy.
The training program,
aimed at medical and allied health professionals and others interested
in diagnosing and treating women victims of violence, aims to:
1. increase health
professionals' sensitivity, compassion, empathy and respect for
Services to survivors have been enhanced by the establishment of a Volunteer Advocate Group which facilitates care. A flowchart for case handling was also developed, setting out a holistic approach to ensure that the physical, mental and legal aspects of violence are all addressed, with appropriate medical and psycho-social follow-up. It is envisioned that the Women's Desk will become a model to other hospitals, physicians, social workers and government agencies.
#7 Addressing Violence
Against Women in Poor Urban Communities
A common response to violence against women is to establish a crisis centre. However, these centres are very rarely used by the urban poor, partly because they are rarely located in these communities, and partly because they tend to focus (for resource reasons) on the most serious cases. Thus, they don't address the more typical chronic forms of spousal abuse found in poor urban communities.
To address this gap, the Women's Legal Bureau and HASIK, a non-government organization servicing the urban poor in Quezon City, Manila, collaborated on a project known as COMBAT-VAW. This pilot project aimed to:
The distinguishing feature of this pilot project was its emphasis on community organising to underpin other project components. Within this framework, the strategies used were education and training, support services, research and documentation.
Three levels of education and training strategies were developed, ranging from general gender awareness raising, through a focus on violence against women, to specific legal advocacy training. The advocacy training process emphasised development of self-esteem, as well as specific skills and knowledge, so that the participants developed the confidence needed to undertake public activities.
Gender and violence against women issues were introduced cautiously and slowly through community organization strategies. The project also created allies among men in the community, who played an important part by carrying out consciousness-raising efforts with other men - especially known abusers - as well as serving as a support group to the legal advocates.
Through the six years of the project, a range of strategies and approaches were trialled and adapted to meet the needs of the urban poor. In the first year, the women formed three community-based crisis centres in which legal advocates provided women victims with counselling and assistance in dealing with barangay officials and the police. The project also explored different models for community organization work, including the potential of other organizations taking this work on. Publications included popular education materials in comic form, and a simple 15-page booklet illustrating the legal remedies available to victims of violence.
The outcomes of this project are impressive. Prior to the community-based legal advocates, there were 3-4 cases of wife battering per week. Now, the average is down to 2 cases per month. This decrease has been attributed to a combination of factors, including overall increased community awareness; increased awareness of rights among victims, and increased willingness to seek help and prosecute their abusers; and fear of punishment among abusers.
#8 Adopting a Community
Based Response to Domestic Violence
In 1992, representatives from government, non-government and police agencies responded to an alarmingly high rate of domestic violence cases in Cebu City by establishing a community-based program to address domestic violence as a social issue. The Family Watch Group (Bantay Banay) is a comprehensive program of activities and interventions to alleviate, if not totally eliminate domestic violence against women, currently covering four villages in Cebu City. With support from Germany, it is now expanding to ten cities in another five provinces.
Bantay Banay uses three main strategies: organising and training communities; involving and training inter-agency committees; and mainstreaming the program into local governance. First, a coordinating committee was established with representatives from the police, barangay captains, the parishes, the international federation of lawyers, Lihok Pilipina Foundation Inc (a local non-government organization), and community leaders. Seminars and workshops on gender sensitivity, violence against women and laws affecting women were then held for police, local leaders and community members, city health personnel, teachers, people in cooperatives, village officials and health workers.
Following the training, village officials and community leaders organised Family Watch Groups in their respective areas. These groups of volunteers monitor women in their neighbourhoods and provide a support system for any person suffering from violence or other abuse. The groups can access support through the Lihok Pilipina Foundation's Crisis Centre, but only a few communities need this. Most are able to handle cases on their own after receiving basic training in feminist counselling.
The volunteers undertake a range of activities such as direct conflict intervention, mediation, referrals, counselling and swearing of affidavits. Many groups assist women with food and shelter before referring them to other assistance. In one group, for example, each member makes a regular cash donation to build up emergency funds for when a woman approaches the group for help.
Where victims become involved in legal proceedings, the groups arrange to accompany them to the various institutions at every stage of the proceedings. Staff from Lihok Pilipina accompany the clients to case conferences to give more specialist support, while the Family Watch Groups mobilise to give the women moral support.
Many group members have admitted to having to confront their own self-images and value systems. Interestingly, a fishing group in Alumos, a fishing village, has agreed to include in its membership policy a rule that members may not batter their partners. Volunteers have also become active in other community issues, such as drug addiction, drainage maintenance, and garbage collection.