Why We Need More Women-Friendly Spaces (WFS)

Earthquakes, typhoons, floods, war, conflict — all of these have devastating affects on families and communities, most especially to vulnerable sectors such as women and children. In particular, women who are pregnant — along with women who have young children and women with disabilities — require specific needs.

Indeed, displacement brought about by a natural or man-made crisis can greatly affect women. To address their needs, the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), through its Social Technology Bureau (STB), has come up with a solution: the establishment of Women-Friendly Spaces (WFS).

DSWD Women Friendly Spaces
February 4, 2022 – DSWD installed women-friendly spaces in Surigao City, Surigao del Norte, and San Jose, Province of Dinagat Islands. These were part of the efforts to support families and individuals affected by Typhoon Odette.
Image Credit: DSWD Caraga / Facebook

What is WFS?

A Women-Friendly Space (WFS) is a facility or structure established in evacuation camps, transitional sites, or communities to address the needs of women during crisis situations. By providing them with their own “space” where their needs are addressed, these women would be able to cope and eventually return to their communities.

The WFS is a venue where women can access services such as: psychosocial support, reproductive health services, life skills training, and cash-for-work initiatives. It also serves as a safe and confidential entry point for gender-based violence (GBV) survivors.

The international and national legal bases for the WFS include: the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW); Republic Act 9710 or the Magna Carta of Women; and Republic Act 10121 or the Philippine Disaster Response and Risk Management (DRRM) Law.

Meanwhile, the stakeholders involved in setting up a Women-Friendly Space include: DSWD Officers, Local Government Units (LGUs), non-government organizations (NGOs), local women’s organizations, civic organizations, and other community members.

Objectives of the Program

Generally, the WFS aims to address the specific needs of women affected by disasters and provide a gender-responsive way of delivering various services.

Specifically, the WFS seeks to:

  • Provide a safe and accessible space for internally displaced women;
  • Ensure access of internally displaced women to economic activities and other services;
  • Increase awareness among women and community members on issues related to well-being, women’s rights, sexual and reproductive health, and gender-based violence; and
  • Enhance the knowledge and skills of internally displaced women to enable them to participate and have control on matters related to their needs and interests.
DSWD Women Friendly Spaces
February 4, 2022 – Child-friendly spaces were also installed in areas affected by Typhoon Odette.
Image Credit: DSWD Caraga / Facebook

Target Beneficiaries

The primary beneficiaries of WFS are internally displaced women and children, especially pregnant and lactating women, women with disabilities, and young women in disaster-affected communities.

Eventually, during the early recovery phase, the WFS may also be used for awareness education about gender equality and women’s empowerment — targeting men and boys.

Components of the Program

The WFS consists of three main components, as follows:

1. Gender Awareness Education and Information Sessions

This component involves the dissemination of information about the WFS and its services. WFS facilitators also take the opportunity to raise awareness about gender equality, women empowerment, and the prevention of gender-based violence.

2. Service Delivery

The WFS provides access to services such as psychosocial support, reproductive health, cash for work, and life skills using the Gender and Equality and Women Empowerment Framework.

3. Partnership and Networking

This component involves tapping and maximizing local, national, and international resources for the implementation of the services in the WFS.

To implement these components, the DSWD works hand-in-hand with the following groups and individuals: local Social Workers, village (Violence Against Women) VAW Desk Officers, Municipal Health Officers, health workers, midwives, nutrition officers, local police officers, Municipal Agricultural Officers, Livelihood Officers, NGOs, civic organizations, and faith-based organizations.

Pilot Areas

The pilot areas for the WFS include the following cities and municipalities:

  • Region VI – Roxas City, Carles, and Concepcion (Iloilo)
  • Region VIII – Tacloban City, Palo, Tanauan, Dulag, and Tolosa (Leyte); Guiuan, Mercedes, Salcedo, Gen. MacArthur, Balangiga, Quinapondan, Lawaan, Giporlos, and Balangkayan (Eastern Samar)
  • Region XI – New Bataan, Monkayo, and Compostela (Compostela Valley)

Notably, Women-Friendly Spaces (WFS) were established in these areas during periods of natural disaster: January to March 2012 (Typhoon Sendong); December 2012 to May 2013 (Typhoon Pablo); and November 2013 to November 2014 (Typhoon Yolanda).

After pilot testing, here are some key findings regarding WFS:

  • WFS helped to ensure that women’s concerns and gender issues were given attention post-disaster.
  • The WFS was seen as a safe place for women to discuss their issues and concerns.
  • Women learned about their rights and about laws protecting women and children.
  • Women said that they have enhanced self-esteem/self-confidence.
  • Men understood how they could be better husbands and fathers.
  • Communities recognized that intimate partner violence is a crime and not a “private family matter.”

Notably, in April 2015, the DSWD Secretary signed a Memorandum Circular on WFS Institutionalization. Between May and July 2015, the DSWD capacitated all its regional offices on Comprehensive Intervention Against GBV (including focus on WFS). Finally, on May 2016, the WFS was turned over to DReAMB for institutionalization and budget appropriation.

Video: WFS in Humanitarian Settings

Would you like to learn more about Women-Friendly Spaces? Check out this video shared by STB Hub YouTube Channel, about WFS in humanitarian settings:

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Meanwhile, here are some commonly asked questions about the WFS:

1. What is WFS?

WFS stands for “Women-Friendly Space,” a facility or structure established in evacuation camps, transitional sites, or communities to address the needs of women during crisis situations.

2. What are its objectives?

The WFS seeks to address the needs of women affected by disasters as well as provide a gender-responsive way of delivery services.

3. Who are its target beneficiaries?

The primary target beneficiaries of the WFS are internally displaced women and children. Eventually, it may also be used for awareness education for men and boys regarding gender equality and women empowerment

4. What are its components?

The three main components of the WFS are: gender awareness education and information sessions; service delivery; and partnership and networking.

5. How can I learn more about it?

You can learn more about WFS by getting in touch with the nearest DSWD Office in your areas.

Contact Information: Social Technology Bureau

For those who are based in the National Capital Region (NCR, you can address your questions and concerns about WFS to the Social Technology Bureau (STB) located at the DSWD Central Office in Quezon City. Its office hours are 8:00 am to 5:00 pm.

Address: Social Technology Bureau, 3rd Floor, Matapat Building, Department of Social Welfare and Development – Central Office, IBP Road, Constitution Hills, Batasan Complex, Quezon City
Telephone: +632 8951 7124 / 8951 2802 / 8931 8144
Email: soctech@dswd.gov.ph
Website: https://stb.dswd.gov.ph/

Google Map:

NOTE: If you are residing outside the NCR, you can get in touch with the Regional Social Technology Unit (STU) in your province or region. Check out the STU directory for their contact details.

Infographic About Project

Here is an infographic featuring an overview of WFS:

DSWD Women Friendly Spaces
Image Credits: stb.dswd.gov.ph

Final Thoughts

When disaster strikes — men, women, and children have different needs, so the response and services provided must be gender-based. Women-Friendly Spaces (WFS) address the specific needs of women and children during periods of crisis. Thanks to this facility, internally displaced women can have a safe place where their needs can be met.

On the other hand, another gender-based initiative of the DSWD is the GRCM Model. Head to this link to read more about how using this model can help prevent gender-based violence.