By Arielle Celine Tabinga

On October 25, 2018. I began my training as a Solar Skolar. I had the opportunity to witness the first ever Women-Led Solar Scholars Training held in Marabut, Samar. The initial approach of the workshop is to develop women-leaders from RE-Serve to train community women’s groups as disaster-front liners while integrating renewable energy into their Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) capacity. About 22 people filled the room, 19 of which were women coming from the different barangays of Marabut and Tacloban.

One of the initial objectives of the workshop was to get to know the community gender roles. More specifically, how Yolanda affected or changed the lives of the women. In order to do so, we made the participants identify their normal daily activities before, during, and after Yolanda. The responses revealed that some of the women were doing labor work such as a blacksmith, carpenter, kargador, and even as a construction worker. The women were no longer bounded to solely doing domestic chores and child care. Instead, they gained more control over assets such as labor skills as well as more responsibilities in resource allocation such as micromanaging the use of electricity consumption. Men on the other hand, were well into office work. According to them, their skills and capabilities have increased thanks to the elevated livelihood opportunities post-Yolanda.

Throughout the entire workshop, I noticed that the participants were enthusiastic in voicing their opinions. They raised questions, suggestions and shared many laughs. They were relentlessly curios and eager to learn how renewable energy can upgrade their DRR capacity and if it is indeed a practical and feasible solution. It even came to a point where the participants were debating and consolidating among themselves on how they will maintain, distribute, and monitor the TekPak. It was exciting to see how engaged they are about the advantages of renewable energy. Much more, they opened topics such as ozone layer depletion and basic history of climate change.

I find that the women participants in Marabut are great examples of modern day rural women who are flexible and capable front liners in the field of innovation, community development, and resilience. Take for example Ms. Lorna Ortillo Dela Pena, the president of the Marabut Women’s Federation. Nanay Lorna told us personal stories of adversity of gender discrimination during the Yolanda disaster.

One particularly story was when she was going back to her hometown after buying a few rice and canned goods right after being hit by typhoon Yolanda. She was riding a ferry back home but then the seat given to her was simultaneously occupied by another passenger. It was decided that she was going to be the one left behind. But of course as single parent who needs to tend to her devastated children, she wasn’t backing down so easily. She disagreed reluctantly and contended until the operator let her have her seat. She fought hard because she knows others rely on the little food she managed to scrap. Why would she be the one left behind when she paid the same price for the seat?

She was well aware that she was treated with blatant discrimination and tells us if not for the community trainings she underwent, she would not have been able to assert that she, as senior citizen, a mother, and a woman, is a priority in times of disasters. Through her experiences and learnings, she wants to help other women consciously realize that they are part of the vulnerable population that are subject to exploitation. But more than that, she wants women to realize that they can be respondents too.

In fact, they are better qualified to make rational decisions in terms of allocating resources because they are critical influencers at the household level. All the more for the women in Marabut, they are more adept in making gender positive changes due to their well-established organizations. The more I got to know her, the more I admired her relentless vehemence towards supporting and enabling people in need. Needless to say, she best exemplifies the character of what Women-Led Solar Scholars Training is trying to engender. A woman who is capable, empowered, and has the strong will to support those in need.