SAN FABIAN—Even before Mayor Irene Libunao was elected for her first term in office in 2010, she has already been pursuing projects meant to empower the women in the town.
“My initiative in pushing for women empowerment in our municipal government is actually a follow-through of my personal advocacy as a private citizen before I became mayor of San Fabian,” Libunao said during a Gender and Development workshop of the News and Information Bureau of the Presidential Communications Operations Office last week.
When her husband became mayor of San Fabian more than 10 years ago, she organized the San Fabian chapter of the Pangasinan Council of Women Inc. (PCWI), which started with 50 members and has since grown to 5,000 with 34 barangays chapters.
PCWI San Fabian has so far established a beauty parlor, a garments and dress shop, and a fish processing shop, all of which also serve as training centers for women.
It produces boneless bangus and bangus sardines, which was awarded on its first year of production as the best OTOP (One Town OneProduct) in Pangasinan and in Region 1.
The town chapter sells these products, together with other San Fabian women’s products, at the PCWI Pasalubong Center located at the San Fabian Town Garden, which is also a project of the group.
The PCWI Bigasan ng Bayan, located in the same building, is also the authorized wholesaler and retailer of NFA Rice in the town.
Libunao recalled that in her initial visits to the various barangays, most of the wives, mothers and daughters she met were in their homes because they were unemployed and had no opportunities for alternative livelihoods.
“Having known this first hand, I resolved to make women empowerment my special and lifelong advocacy,” Libunao added.
Also, Libunao proudly reported that nine out of 12 department heads in the San Fabian local government are all women.
These include the municipal treasurer, accountant, budget officer, planning and development officer, administrative officer, civil registrar, assessor, interior and local government officer and the social welfare officer.
She added that assistant department heads, except in the Municipal Health Unit and the Municipal Engineer, are all women.
The mayor is now on the lookout for a lady doctor to head the soon-to-be-opened Lying-in Clinic of San Fabian for expectant mothers.
At the same time, she encourages the rank and file employees of the town government to join the Government Lady Employees Active Movement (GLEAM) which now has 125 active members.
GLEAM is a member of the San Fabian Local Council of Women Organizations, the umbrella organization for all women’s associations in the town, composed of 13 organizations.
“Women empowerment is special to my heart. It springs from my personally experiencing the heartfelt aspirations of the women I have met, especially over the past 10 years after I moved over to San Fabian, to live here after my husband was elected mayor,” she said.