BY ROGER M. BALANZA
Secretary. Barangay Ilang, Davao City
The project THE AKYAT BARKO GIRLS AND LITERACY AS A TOOL AGAINST HIV/AIDS AND PROSTITUTION is in support of the Literacy Program of the Davao City Government and Mayor Sara Duterte. This report was submitted by Barangay Ilang, Bunawan District, Davao City as a paper in the search for Outstanding Local Government Units under the Highly Urbanized City Category of the National literacy Awards
Barangay Ilang in Bunawan District in Davao City is located in the city’s industrial Second District.
With a population of 20,000, the barangay is home to the city’s biggest companies among them cement maker Holcim Philippines and a host of export industry-related industries like shipping, trucking, manufacturing and others.
The Literacy Program of Barangay Ilang transcends the concept of the ordinary literacy program limited to education in schools or alternative learning.
Barangay Ilang has provided infrastructures like school buildings to preschools and public schools with support of the national and local governments and the barangay’s coorporate community; and allocated funding for honoraria of volunteer teachers under the Alternative Learning System (ALS) and Early Childhood Care Development (ECCD). When fund were available it provided support for school supplies and equipment to the barangay preschools and home-based ECCDs.
Outside of this however, Barangay Ilang pushed literacy on other aspects of society in the barangays through organization, funding and conduct of seminars and fora on such diverse topics as peace and order, health, barangay justice, environment and others.
The project THE AKYAT BARKO GIRLS AND LITERACY AS A TOOL AGAINST HIV/AIDS AND PROSTITUTION illustrates Barangay Ilang’s efforts at promoting literacy among Commercial Sex Workers (CSW) on the control and prevention of the spread of Human-Immuno Deficiency Virus/Acquired-Immuno Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS), the vulnerability of the barangay against the deadly disease in view of its exposure to crewmen of foreign vessels being one of the city’s most industrialized barangay, including initiatives to provide livelihood programs for the CSWs.
With very low unemployment rate and its workforce with money to spare for amusement and personal diversions, prostitution is a thriving industry catering to locals and foreign crewmen of ocean-going vessels calling at local ports to load bananas, cement, wood products and other export items. Barangay Ilang is host to major wharves/piers in the city.
Prostitution in the Barangay has two faces.
One, that which caters to locals with girls using as their entertainment base the various bars and joints mostly located in the Baywave area.
Two, the Akyat Barko Girls who ride on motorboats usually at night to be ferried to foreign vessels moored at Pakiputan Strait while waiting to load and unload cargoes at various wharves. Infrequently, they hitch ride even during daytime on tugboats picking up supplies for the vessels in Ilang.
As a social problem, the Barangay saw prostitution as an unavoidable phenomenon that cannot be stopped. With poverty as a main factor that drives women to sell their bodies, prostitution has become an economic generator providng livelihood. The Akyat Barko Girls also has given birth to another livelihood. The business of transporting them to the foreign vessels at Pakiputan midstream provides income to many motorboat owners and operators.
While most of the Akyat Barko girls are not from the Barangay, officials led by Barangay Captain Romeo Cabling and members of the Barangay Council saw prostitution as an inherent problem present in the barangay that must be treated as a part of its responsibility on general public welfare.
The idea of a Barangay program directed at Commercial Sex Workers (CSW) was adopted by the Barangay Council in support of the government’s LITERACY PROGRAM and as an education activity that addresses the special needs and interest of a marginalized sector (in this case the CSWs) with the aim of developing their skills for personal development (in this case, awareness of HIV/AIDS and other sexually-transmittted diseases).
Thus the project, LITERACY AS A TOOL AGAINST HIV/AIDS AND PROSTITUTION.
Project location was easily identifiable (Sikatoy) and with availability of target personalities for seminars and medical outreach programs to be implemented under the project.
SIKATOY. Sikatoy or the Sto. Nino Village in Ilang, is a coastal community of more than 100 families of informal settlers. Mostly composed of families of laborers, the village is embedded with small home-based businesses that cater mostly to crewmen of the foreign vessels: bars and videoke joints (with CSWs serving as GROs or guest relations officers); money changers and inns, among others.
Sandwiched between the Tefasco and Unifrutti wharf facilities, Sikatoy is an ideal location as jump off point for mootorboats ferrying the Akyat Barko Girls to the foreign vessels moored at the Pakiputan Strait.
There is heavy motorboat traffic at night between Pakiputan and Sikatoy.
The Barangay saw Sikatoy as a potential entry for HIV/AIDS transmission from the foreign crewmen to the local CSWs.
To prevent this, it considered that the project LITERACY AS A TOOL AGAINST HIV/AIDS AND PROSTITUTION can be an effective mechanism to minimize transmission of the deadly disease by the Akyat Barko Girls.
In early 2006, Barangay Captain Cabling and the members of the Barangay Council met with representatives of Wo/Men s Access to Vital Education and Services (WAVES) International, Inc.
WAVES is a non-stock, non-profit, non-sectarian, non-political and non-governmental organization (NGO). Its mandate is to deliver and/or facilitate access to vital education and services to the less privileged and vulnerable men and women, including youth and children in the community.
It is accredited as an NGO by the city government of Davao through City Council Resolution No. 02327-06 and licensed by the Department of Social Welfare and Development with License No. XI-2006-09.
The local WAVES branch is run by dynamic individuals who have extensive experience as NGO workers in the area of organizational development; program management; planning, implementation and monitoring; reproductive health and rights; HIV and AIDS advocacy, education and counseling.
1. POLICY ADVOCACY
Advocates for the development and/or implementation of sound policies that promote health and welfare of women, youth and children; and foster social involvement and community response.
2. INFECTION PREVENTION OUTREACH
Develops and implements community outreach projects among vulnerable groups such as women and men in prostitution, men who have sex with men (MSM), male clients of women in prostitution, men in the workplace, young people and sexually exploited children for the prevention, and control of life threatening infections like HIV and other sexually transmitted infections.
3. COUNSELING AND REFERRAL
Provides counseling and referral service to women, men and young people on concerns related to sexual and reproductive health/rights, HIV testing, gender, identity and other issues. Counseling is provided either through face-to-face or over the internet through LIVE CHAT at http://www.wavesdavao.com.
4. COMMUNITY ORGANIZING
Assists vulnerable communities to organize themselves and design a community response to pressing concerns like HIV & AIDS.
5. RESOURCE CENTER
Designs and conducts training on volunteering, peer education, HIV/AIDS/STIs, counseling, and policy development. Furthermore, maintains a 24/7 online information on sexual and reproductive health and rights, HIV/AIDS, and STIs through its website.
6. Outreach to Akyat Barko. This a joint undertaking of the City Health Office – Reproductive Health and Wellness Center through the leadership of Dr. Josephine Villafuerte (City Health Officer) and Dr. Rosita Cueto (RHWC Chief Physician) , Barangay Ilang Council and WAVES. This activity started with the LEAD for Health Project – MSH-USAID support but is now continuing through a coordinated effort. Outreach education and STI screening is conducted at Sitio Sikatoy and Barangay Ilang Health Center respectively through the leadership of captain Romeo Cabling.
WAVES has implemented various projects related to HIV/AIDS prevention such as policy advocacy, community outreach to highly vulnerable groups, research, technical assistance to local government unit, mobilizing the private sector for a sustained HIV response and skills development for out of school youth.
One of its most remarkable projects was the Policy Advocacy and Support which led to the drafting and eventually passage of a local ordinance “Davao City AIDS Ordinance 2002” – An ordinance promulgating policies and measures for the prevention and control of Sexually Transmitted Infections, HIV/AIDS in Davao City, strengthening the Davao City AIDS Council.
WAVES was funded by the Davao City Government, PATH Philippines through the AIDS Surveillance and Education Project funded by USAID; Family Health International; Management Sciences for Health through LEAD for Health Project funded by USAID; AIDS Society of the Philippines through its UNFA supported project and UNICEF Child Protection Council. of the Board of Trustees.
2. CITY HEALTH OFFICE (CHO)
3. DAVAO CITY SOCIAL SERVICES DEVELOPMENT OFFICE (CSSDO)
4. DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH REGIONAL OFFICE ELEVEN
5. OFFICE OF THE DAVAO CITY MAYOR
1. Conduct of seminar/forum on women’s rights
2. Conduct of seminar/forum on HIV/AIDS CONTROL AND PREVENTION
4. Condcut of seminar on altermative livelihood projects
5. Medical check-ups
The seminars/ fora were conducted right in Sikatoy every month with average attendance of 50 CSWs.
The seminars/fora and the free medical services and examinations for sexually-transmitted diseases were jointly condcuted by WAVES, CHO, DOH and CSSDO, with modest financial support from the Barangay and its officials for snacks and meals for participants and lecturers.
Happily, the gatherings lured the participation of the villagers, including a few Akyat Barko Gays, the male counterparts of the Akyat Barko Girls, who also infrequently board the foreign vessels for sex with crewmen.
For better monitoring, the Barangay Council of Ilang organized the Akyat Barko Girls into and assocaition.
The Sikatoy Health and Safety Monitoring System was also formed, and provided funding by the Barangay Council of P30,000.00. Coverage of the monitoring system includes child prostitution with the boat owners and operators, who are also members of the monitoring system, given primary responsibility to watch for minors engaged in prostitution.
As one of the most industrialized barangays in the city, Barangay Ilang sees prostitution as a continuing phenomenon that must be continously addressed.
Barangay Ilang is undergoing economic boom due to rise in investments; construction of more wharf failities and plants and factories are expected to give rise to employment.
Conversely, Barangay officials see the economic boom as a major factor for prostitution to further thrive in the barangay particularly involving the Akyat Barko Girls.
1. Sustain and institutionalize the program.
2. Widen networking for more effective implementation.
3. Permanency in funding