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susan t. pineda
susan t pineda A CONSTANT search for reasons and new ideas has been my natural instinct since my childhood. Asking "why" has been a never ending question in my mind, especially on how to make life better for my family and for others.

My humble beginnings were marked by hard work and Christian values. At an early age, we were taught to make a living for the survival of our family. At nine, I learned the skill of selling "kakanin" (rice cakes), ice candy, peanuts, and others. I learned, too, the power of negotiation and conflict management, because I was often asked by my mother to explain why we can't yet pay our debt at the neighborhood sari-sari store, or to seek the financial help of relatives in times of need.

My parents taught us strong Christian doctrines, a deep sense of idealism, and nationalism. I grew up imbued with revolutionary zeal and political activism. Both my parents were members of the HUKBALAHAP (Hukbo ng Bayan Laban sa Hapon) that defended the country against Japanese occupation in World War II. At a very young age, we were awakened to the dire condition of Filipino life and our role to improve it.

I was ten years old when my mother was widowed. She brought us up (6 children) through mere dressmaking. Despite our poverty, my mother taught us to be grateful for what we had. Due to the absence of our father, we developed a very strong bond in the family by supporting each other. We got our education through scholarship programs. My education was supported by the Christian Children Fund (CCF), from elementary to college. I grew up practically in the hands of nuns, and instructed on church teachings.

CCF gave me the opportunity to develop myself to achieve my full potential. This led to my involvement in youth organizations. I became the University Student Council (USC) president of our university and then later the youth president of our city. This paved the way for my appointment as Youth Representative to the City Council (Sangguniang Panglunsod) of Angeles City. However, I was replaced without ending my term because of my exposé on graft and corruption in government.

After my stint serving in the youth sector, I joined a non-government disaster agency to help rebuild my city from the devastation caused by the eruption of Mt. Pinatubo in 1991. At the height of my work in the relief and rehabilitation efforts, I was abducted and tortured by the military. (I was mistakenly identified as someone else, it turned out.)

After the ordeal, though battered and bruised by the trauma of my abduction, I organized grassroots community women into what came to be known as the Kapisanan para sa Kagalingan ng Kababaihan sa Angeles or KKKA. KKKA served as our response to the calamity by launching self-help community livelihood development projects, and education and training. Later I founded the Ing Makababaying Aksyon (IMA) Foundation to provide various programs and services for the empowerment of women and children victims/survivors of gender-based violence, like myself.

My active women and children's rights advocacy prompted women's organizations and political leaders to urge me to join politics, which led to my election for two terms to the top seat in the City Council, becoming the lone elected woman city councilor from 1995 to 2001.

As a city councilor, modesty aside, I authored the first Gender and Development (GAD) and Anti-HIV/AIDs ordinance of the country. This pioneering legislation was replicated in various cities and provinces in the country. The experience in GAD policy advocacy was published by the NCRFW and The Asia Foundation. I also authored the book "Moving Forward with GAD!"—a handbook for the Sanggunian Committee on Women and Family and to gender advocates. It was published by NCRFW and UNICEF. Recently, I have published a handbook on Anti-VAWC (Violence Against Women and Children).

As the executive director of IMA Foundation and as a social activist, I am lucky to have been exposed to almost the whole gamut of development work. I am grateful also for being a part of the social movement in the various advocacies for peace, human rights and social justice, environment, public health, women and development, and other socio-economic and political issues.

Imbedded in me is a deep passion and compassion to alleviate the plight of women and the challenge to respond to the forces that nail them to the backroom of development. The grim realities confronting women such as prostitution, trafficking, HIV/AIDS, reproductive health, natural and man made disasters, the stereotyping of women in education and media, the dire lack of medical and health services, the scant opportunities for economic upliftment, the neglect for social well-being, the combined multiple burden of the home and workplace, the abuses largely untold—all these complex and intertwined issues reaffirm my commitment to development work.

As a person of leadership in the women sector, I need to develop my expertise in various fields of development issues as we are often besieged with questions such as how to improve the living conditions of our people.

My quest to help others has immersed me in total service and dedication to advocating for the rights of others. All throughout, I have engaged myself for the advancement of the welfare of others, in activities that continue to broaden and sharpen my skills and knowledge to be of better service to others.

However, despite my development work experience and educational background, I still yearn for more knowledge and wisdom. I am greatly challenged by the need to be always abreast of what is happening locally and globally. I need to be updated on the most recent development discourse, perspectives, and frameworks in dealing with socio-economic, political, and development issues that beset our country and the world. I want to be a better advocate and a potent force, even at my limited sphere of work, in bringing the substantial change needed by our country and the world to attain peace and social justice.

Having been exposed to diverse development issues, surfaces now the need to comprehensively analyze what effective approaches and methods we need to address the inherent problems of poverty, social injustice, and human rights violations.

I believe that learning from the experience of others will enhance my conceptual skill and amplify my confidence with regard to the development perspective I advocate for. This effort will spark off a ripple effect of creating a critical mass of fellow advocates. Together, we will raise the flag of unity which will address the roots of poverty, inequality, oppression, and exploitation.

[About the author. Susan Pineda is a social activist and a feminist. Academically, she graduated with a degrees in BS Psychology and Bachelor of Laws. She took Methods of Teaching and an under-graduate of Masters Degree in Public Administration at the University of the Philippines. She is author of 'Moving Forward with GAD!,' published by NCRFW and UNICEF, and the 'Anti-Violence Against Women and their Children Act (RA 9262) or Anti-VAWC Handbook.' Honed by years of being a youth leader and as city councilor, she now serves as full-time executive director of IMA Foundation where she supervises the day-to-day operations and management of the center. She also acts as a counselor and paralegal adviser. She was a project consultant for NCRFW and UNIFEM. She represented the country in various UN conferences on women and environment and acted as resource person on these endeavors. What challenges her, as a woman leader is the multiple-burden role of women, being a public servant/NGO worker, intertwined with the demands of bringing-up a family in a very challenging society. Susan is happily married to her supportive husband, Marlon, and has two girl children, Ayah and Mira (ages 13 and 6).]

-Posted: 1:35 PM 1/6/07 | More of this author on eK!