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COMMENTARY: Advocating for Solo Parents’ Rights in Lanao del Sur

mindaviews commentary

MARAWI CITY (MindaNews / 5 Sept)—I am a single mother and I know and have experienced many fears and emotions faced by solo parents. Our greatest fear is probably seeing our children getting sick. That is the crucial time we need a support system, and we thank the high heavens when a family member or a friend is there to sympathize with us.

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During the first focused group discussion of the Lanao del Sur Single Mothers Advocacy in Marawi City. Photo courtesy of Salma Jayne Alonto Tamano

Another fear we face is financial difficulty and stability because we may not be able to put enough food on the table, pay educational necessities, hospital bills or household obligations, or buy vitamins and medicines. I am blessed that I have a supportive family whom I can always run to when I face a parental crisis, but I can’t help but feel sad and anxious for those single mothers who can barely make ends meet and have no one to run to. How do they cope? Do they have rights and privileges to address their needs?

It was my personal experience as a single mom that made me want to advocate for the rights of solo parents. With the help of the Lanao del Sur Provincial Gender and Development (GAD) Office headed by Ms. Alliah Lucman, I pooled a group of single mothers in Marawi City and we discussed the usual plight of solo parents in our province.

During our focused group discussion, we discovered that aside from financial and emotional hardships, single mothers experience stigma. One discussant said that female divorcees in the Meranaw society are most of the time stereotyped by many as women who are on the lookout for another husband when they start grooming themselves. The term they say is “di mamimituwanen.” And if female divorcees do not practice self-care, they are said to be “mimboko” or mourning for the past marriage or yearning for the ex-husband.

First planning workshop of the Lanao del Sur Single Mothers Advocacy core group. Photo courtesy of Salma Jayne Alonto Tamano

One member of the group uttered there are some women who would rather endure an abusive marriage than become divorcees and be frowned upon by society. Our GAD focal person stated there is a need to empower women to escape being stigmatized, traumatized and abused. Ms. Jhohanessa Lucman, the social worker in the group, said there are laws for solo parents in the Philippines and they just need to be localized. These laws are Republic Act 8972 or The Solo Parents’ Welfare Act of 2000 and R.A. 11861 or the Expanded Solo Parent Act of 2022.

Once R.A. 11861 is localized in Lanao del Sur, municipal social workers will be mandated to issue solo parent identification cards (SPIC) and booklets to rightful beneficiaries. Certain establishments and institutions in the province will be forced to give discounts to qualified solo parents, and municipal government units will be obligated to provide monthly allowances to them to be taken from their GAD funds.

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Employers will be required to provide an annual seven-day leave to their workers who are solo parents aside from other personnel benefits such as a flexible work schedule and telecommuting. There are other privileges that we solo parents can avail of as indicated in both R.A. 8972 and R.A. 11861.

I asked a few barangay chairpersons in some of the municipalities we usually visit if they have solo parents in their areas and if they were issued SPICs and booklets. They said they were not aware of such documents. I found out that there are 14,667 solo parents in our province and 11,755 of them are women based on data provided by the Provincial Social Welfare and Development Office and the Ministry of Social Services and Development Lanao del Sur Provincial Office. It is therefore necessary to give them SPICs and booklets so that they can avail of their privileges as mandated by law.

I brought the idea of localization to Lanao del Sur Governor Mamintal “Bombit” Alonto Adiong Jr. and he approved of it. The Provincial Legal Office is now studying R.A. 11861 for the purpose of localizing it in the province through an executive order. Vice Governor Mohammad Khalid “Mujam” Raki-in Adiong said he is a staunch advocate of women empowerment and instructed the Sangguniang Panlalawigan Secretary to research on solo parents ordinances of other provinces.

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Their support for women’s rights is most probably because they understand that Islam holds so much deference to women.

The Lanao del Sur Single Mothers Advocacy Group first photo together as a formed group. Photo courtesy of Salma Jayne Alonto Tamano

The municipal local government units play a significant role in this advocacy. They need to be encouraged to also localize R.A. 11861 in their respective areas through ordinances from their Sangguniang Bayan, and work with their respective municipal social workers from the Ministry of Social Services and Development of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao for the continuous provision of solo parent IDs and booklets. The barangay local government units have a crucial part as well as they have knowledge on who the solo parents are in their communities. Once we work together, we can help empower our solo parents. We need to provide education opportunities, skills trainings and livelihood assistance to them. Aside from the government, there are NGOs and development agencies who will willingly give support. Truly, the road to social development must be everyone’s daily mandate.

(MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. Salma Jayne Alonto Tamano heads Lanao del Sur’s Provincial Information Office.)

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