The Power of Conversation

By JV Briones / Photos: Blue Motus (IOM) 

“What will happen to us?”

This is just one of the many questions being raised by the affected populace throughout the Typhoon Yolanda-affected areas in Region VI. The right information given at the right time is crucial to development. Often overlooked, it is the lack of information which causes disorder, misunderstanding and panic, hindering the communities’ capacity for self-growth.

“We don’t know how to answer the people’s questions. There are a lot of rumours going around and even we barangay officials are becoming confused. We feel helpless,” says Leo Catubuan, barangay kagawad from Brgy. Ilaya-Ivisan.

On February 12th, the municipality of Ivisan, Capiz became the venue for the Isturyahanay, a community transparency and accountability forum, which puts community members and stakeholders in one safe space which allows them to converse and lay down what’s in store for them.

Attended by a total of 73 individuals including members of the local government unit, Office of the Presidential Assistant for Rehabilitation and Recovery, Municipal Social Welfare and Development Office, representatives of six barangays (namely Agmalobo, Agustin-Navarra, Ilaya-Ivisan, Malocloc Norte, Malocloc Sur, and Poblacion Sur), and facilitated by the Common Services Project, a joint initiative between the International Organization for Migration, Plan and World Vision, the forum aims to showcase stakeholders’ accomplishments and plans.

Some of the concerns with recurring themes included beneficiary selection criteria, distribution of goods and emergency preparedness.

“Can we construct an evacuation centre specifically for our municipality?”

“Why isn’t a list with the names of beneficiaries of the Emergency Shelter Assistance circulated in our barangays?”

“How were people chosen for the Transitional Shelter Units?”

These questions and more were settled during the community forum and it doesn’t end there. Community forums such as this one are also designed in such a way which relays the importance of Accountability, especially to the local government, and generate their interest in carrying out similar events in the future which allows them to directly answer questions from the community.

“Naathagan kami (we became more informed),” says a community representatives from one of the participating barangays.

Attendees committed to helping circulate the information they have learned from the forum. “We will have a barangay meeting this coming Monday and I am so happy we were able to attend this. Finally, we have reliable information to tell the people,” exclaims Maryneth Villaruz, a barangay kagawad from Malocloc Norte.

The event also became a venue for the distribution of visibility materials from the Common Services Project such as posters, comics and radios.

The Isturyahanay is a brainchild of the Accountability to Affected Populations Working Group and has been rolled out in the different municipalities of Estancia, Concepcion, Ajuy, Sara, Panay and Ivisan. It was conceptualized to help provide support to communities as they make more informed decisions.