By Ali G. Macabalang
COTABATO CITY – The head in the Philippines of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has visited Marawi, Iligan and Cagayan de Oro cities to highlight the agency’s strides in advancing women’s and youth empowerment and gender equality, and aiding the Marawi recovery and pandemic response.
USAID Philippine Mission Director Ryan Washburn made the visit in observance of International Women’s Day and the Philippine National Women’s Month, the American embassy in Manila said in a statement furnished to the Philippine Muslim Today news.
“In our work in the Philippines and across the world, one of the paramount ways we achieve development is by advancing the rights and expanding opportunities of women and girls,” Director Washburn said in the statement.
He stressed: “When women have better chances of getting well-paying jobs, the economy grows. When more women are involved in negotiations, peace agreements are more likely to be lasting. When girls go to school, they are able to secure a better future for themselves, their families, and their communities.”
In a Women’s Day event on March 8, Washburn awarded the USAID’s 1,000th micro-grant and Plan International’s Marawi Response Project, a grant meant to develop the Pakaranon Women and strengthen response to gender-based violence, the embassy statement said.
The Pakaranon Women is a group of women volunteers displaced in the 2017 Marawi siege, the statement said.
Director Washburn also awarded tilapia fingerlings to a USAID-supported milkfish and tilapia farming and processing facility helping provide livelihoods for people displaced by the Marawi conflict, the embassy said.
He also turned over COVID-19 supplies and adolescent reproductive health communication materials to the Lanao Del Sur provincial government to enhance the LGU’s healthcare system and bolster its pandemic response, added the embassy statement.
He also met local government officials to discuss key issues such as the Marawi recovery, pandemic response, and energy security, the statement said.
The embassy said Director Washburn also gave COVID-19 supplies to Cagayan de Oro’s J.R. Borja Public Hospital, which USAID has supported in both its family planning programs and COVID-19 response.
It said USAID partners with Catholic Relief Services to deploy mobile vaccination teams to geographically isolated areas and provide medical supplies to support recipient-communities’ testing capacity and treatment facilities.
In Iligan City, it said, Washburn visited the Mindanao State University–Iligan Institute of Technology, which USAID has aided with four research grants amounting to P20.8-million.
Over in Cagayan de Oro, Washburn handed over materials to a USAID-supported Regional Inclusive Innovation Center promoting local enterprise development and growth; and joined a mangrove planting activity with USAID-supported Youth Development Alliance, which helps out-of-school youth in the city.
For the past 60 years, USAID has worked with the Philippine government and local organizations to achieve shared development goals, investing more than Php247.5 billion ($5.1 billion) to support the Philippines, the embassy said. (AGM)