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Sunday, December 10, 2023

Protecting our women and children against violence

When Congress enacted into law the Anti-Violence Against Women and Children Act of 2004, our legislators declared that “the State values the dignity of women and children and guarantees full respect for human rights.”


Our legislators further declared that “the State also recognizes the need to protect the family and its members particularly women and children, from violence and threats to their personal safety and security.”


At around this time, reports of violence against women and children have become alarming. Police statistics showed that between 1996 and 2004, incidence of violence against women rose six-fold from 1,100 to 5,758.


I suspected, however, that the figures represented only the tip of the iceberg. For one reason or another, mainly lack of awareness of their rights, many victims of violence did not complain to the police and just suffered in silence.


Against this backdrop, the Zonta Club of Muntinlupa and Environs initiated in 1998 SAGIP (Saklolo at Gabay ng Ina at Pamilya) with the assistance of the local government of Muntinlupa.


I was then on my  last year as Mayor of Muntinlupa City and I gladly offered to Zonta  the free use of a portion of the old municipal hall, as well as initial staffing, for this laudable pioneering project.


In Congress, one of my very first privilege speeches was about the alarming rise of domestic violence.  In that speech, I said: “The level of domestic violence is shocking. Too little is being done to prevent these crimes, to heal the victims and to prosecute the offenders.”


SAGIP was envisioned as a model center managed by a team of professionals and volunteers compassionately working to protect women and children against all forms of violence and abuse.


SAGIP established and continues to operate a 24/7 Crisis Response Center for women and children to address the victims’ immediate safety and healing.


The Crisis Response Center operates a 24-hour hotline and an emergency shelter for victims. SAGIP also provides  for medical attention, crisis intervention, counseling, therapy, other forms of psycho-social intervention and even legal assistance.


To date, some 6,500 victims have been assisted by SAGIP.


Eventually, SAGIP also branched out to community-based services, focusing on abuse prevention and protection.  SAGIP has held regular seminars on  combatting Violence against Women and Children (VAWC), parenting effectiveness, barangay orientation and capability building, basic legal literacy, and anti-VAWC Law for marriage license applicants.


Over 22,000 community  residents, local government officials and parents have attended these seminars.


In addition, SAGIP has assisted in the formation of Women and Children’s Desks in Muntinlupa’s  barangays.  Watch Groups to monitor and address violence cases and rescue abuse victims have also been organized at the barangay level.


SAGIP also regularly  went to the 28 public schools in Muntinlupa to help prevent abuse against children thru  “Gabay Bata”,   and to conduct capability training for principals, teachers and guidance counselors.


Yearly, close to 67,000 students attend the Personal Safety Lessons conducted by SAGIP.


SAGIP also prints and distributes advocacy materials in the form of comics, posters, SAGIP emergency calling cards, and brochures.


Recently,  I received a short note from SAGIP President Menchu Henson to break the good news.  Zonta International  conferred the Service Recognition Award to SAGIP during ZI’s recent convention in Orlando, Florida. SAGIP bested 99 other Zonta service projects worldwide!


Congratulations to SAGIP and to  the Zonta Club of Muntinlupa and Environs. May you  continue to help protect our women and children against violence.

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