The men of Davao fighting sexual exploitation of women

A rather unique approach of our partner TALIKALA, a Davao City-based organization combating sex trafficking and illegal prostitution, is to organize men groups to fight sexual exploitation of women. Their idea to combat the issue of sex trade from all sides, including the “demand side”, has turned out to be a successful one. In Baranggay Lapu Lapu, participants of what was intended to be a one-time discussion have become their own registered volunteer group.

Hernando “Bibing” Rubio, 53 years old was a community leader in Barangay Lapu Lapu, Davao City, one of the communities where a high number of trafficked and prostituted girl-children were reported, and rigid gender roles were held. “Bibing”, his wife and children live in an underprivileged community where Baranggay officials were unaware of the laws pertaining to the protection of women and children, and community members have insufficient access to basic social services and scarce livelihood options.

 “Bibing” and other male residents of Baranggay Lapu Lapu were invited by Talikala for a men’s discussion to identify pressing concerns in the field of women’s rights. The supposed one-time activity was an eye-opening turning point for the men. “Bibing” recalls “after the first meeting, we asked for more and immediately decided on when and where it would be held”. Even though the men were low-earners, working six days a week as carpenters, taxi drivers or construction workers, they continuously dedicated their Sundays to meetings on women’s protection. Talikala paved the way to more study sessions, seminars and training facilitation, which were all under the 3- year project titled “Reduction of Trafficking Cases among Women and Children for the Purpose of Sexual Exploitation and Sexual Abuse in Davao City” supported by AWO International through funds of the German Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development.

The men’s group grew and with it the awareness on women’s and children’s rights in Barangay Lapu Lapu. The participation in the community through citizen’s arrest and reports to authorities was increased. Looking at the positive impact achieved in his community, “Bibing” explains, “now, we are aware of the laws and ordinances, we understand that human rights are universal. If we hear or see something bad is happening in one household, we immediately get the attention of our Baranggay Captain to act accordingly as prescribed by Law”. “Bibing” added “we talk to the male perpetuators, somehow providing them counseling or male-to-male talks with a guidance of social workers from Talikala. “

In 2015, City Government of Davao noticed the efforts of the group and included them in their prevention mechanism against illegal trafficking under the name Men in Valuable Partnership with Women and Children (MVPWC). Today, MVPWC is a registered organization participating in awareness campaigns and providing informal counseling to women and men under the mentorship of Talikala, Inc. It also extends humanitarian assistance to barangays affected by disasters from their personal contributions. Talikala, Inc. is committed to supporting the self-sustained men’s group under the guidance of AWO International.