Reflections on community-engaged feminist scholarship from experiences in
the DWDS Field Instruction Program
Teresita Villamor-Barrameda, DSD
This paper argues that applied social science disciplines like the Women and Development Studies program should develop their own parameters in defining what constitutes a community-engaged scholarship. Using the parameters of transformative, feminist and excellence-oriented community- engaged scholarship, this paper examines the Field Instruction Program (FIP) of the University of the Philippines’ Department of Women and Development Studies (DWDS) as a community-engaged feminist scholarship. At the same time, it serves as an experience paper that synthesizes the FIP experience of the DWDS based on a document review of FIP assessment reports, fieldwork sharing documents, students’ integrated papers and personal journals, complemented by interviews with past graduates and current agency partners. It highlights that community engagement through the FIP partnership provides mutual benefits to both the academic institution and the partner agencies/community organizations.
The paper concludes that the FIP is a form of community-engaged feminist scholarship that is transformative in the sense that it creates life-changing conditions for the community of women and other marginalized groups, as well as life-changing experiences for the students. On the part of the academic institution, the FIP provides venues for faculty supervisors to render services and to produce knowledge products for curricular enhancement, dissemination and popularization. It also provides a venue for both the students and faculty to put feminist processes, principles, values and ethics into practice. While being transformative and feminist in practice, the FIP also reflects a scholarship of excellence anchored to academic rigor, accountability, relevance and commitment to genuine public service.
Key words: field instruction, community-engaged scholarship, , feminist scholarship
The Field Instruction Program (FIP), a core component of the graduate course of the Department of Women and Development Studies (DWDS) links teaching, extension and research for both faculty and students while responding to the needs of women in communities where field work courses take place. It reflects the brand of scholarship – transformative and excellence-oriented – that is espoused by the College of Social Work and Community Development (CSWCD) to which the DWDS belongs.
The aim of the paper is to examine the FIP as a community- engaged scholarship using the parameters of being transformative, feminist and excellence-oriented. Data for this paper were culled from a review of existing documents1 – FIP assessment reports, fieldwork- sharing documents, students’ integrated papers and personal journals – and complemented by interviews with past graduates and current agency partners. The paper has four parts: the first part explores the meanings and processes of a community-engaged scholarship;
the second part describes the parameters of a community-engaged feminist scholarship; the third part discusses the theory and practice of the FIP; and the fourth part examines the FIP in light of the community-engaged feminist scholarship.
Community-engaged scholarship and the CSWCD’s tradition of scholarship
The term community-engaged scholarship came into being with Ernest Boyer’s (1991) landmark report entitled, “Scholarship Reconsidered: Priorities of the Professoriate”. Boyer’s notion of scholarship of discovery, integration, application and teaching as applied in community engagement provides a new take on the meaning of scholarship. It defines scholarship of engagement as linking the university’s expertise to respond to community problems, not only through more programs but more so in pursuit of a larger purpose or
1 Existing documents reviewed include the following: FIP assessment reports – annual reports culled from assessments of the FIP from the perspectives of both the students and the faculty members of the DWDS; field-work sharing documents culled from the students’ reports during the mid- and end-term sharing activities; integrated papers or synthesis papers based on the students’ actual fieldwork experiences and their personal journals containing their reflections and insights on their FIP experiences.
as a mission (Boyer, 1991). Forms of community-engaged scholarship may range from community-based teaching to research, and to services.
Inspired by Boyer’s expanded framework for scholarship, many academic institutions came up with their own notions of scholarship within the context of their disciplines. For instance, in defining scholarship for the discipline of nursing, Peterson & Stevens (2012) adopted Boyer’s four dimensions of scholarship. The first – was the scholarship of discovery or the search towards disciplinal knowledge production. The second was the scholarship of teaching or the transfer of knowledge production from the teacher to the students. The third was the scholarship of integration or the creation of knowledge products towards the development of new knowledge and interdisciplinary knowledge and products. And the fourth was the scholarship of application or the creation of products that provide opportunity for practice application and giving value to university- community partnership.
Likewise, Gelmon, Seifer, Kauper-Brown and Mikkelsen (2005) define community-engaged scholarship as:
However, Gelmon et al (2005) note that while “community service, service-learning, community-based participatory research, training and technical assistance, capacity-building, and economic development” (p.1) are methods of community engagement that can only be considered scholarly when they include elements of the aforementioned definition of community-engaged scholarship.
Likewise, Calleson, Jordan, & Seifer (2005) question whether all faculty engagement with communities could be considered as scholarship and proposed a framework for assessing community-engaged scholarship for considerations in tenure and promotion. This framework includes process measures – methods of collaboration with communities to teaching, discovery, integration, application and engagement that involves the faculty member in a mutually beneficial partnership with the community and has the following characteristics: clear goals, adequate preparation, appropriate methods, significant results, effective presentation, reflective critique, rigor and peer-review. (p.1)
address problems – and product measures that balance community needs and academic requirements – peer-reviewed articles, applied products and community dissemination products.
Aside from defining community-engaged scholarship, there were programs for developing the competencies of academicians in community-engaged scholarship. Jordan et al., (2012) developed a competency-based and multi-disciplinary pilot program at the University of Minnesota to hone faculty members in community- engaged scholarship as well as to promote the concept and its benefits to colleagues within and outside the campus.
Other initiatives include the development of tools and standards for measuring community-engaged scholarship. For instance, Shinnamon, Gelmon, & Holland (1999) developed a measurement tool for faculty involved in community-engaged scholarship. The tool aims to draw out the perspectives and attitudes of faculty members towards their experiences in teaching service- learning courses – that are considered part of the community- engaged scholarship. Areas covered by the tool include: the faculty’s view on the impact of service-learning on students, motivation for integrating service-learning into classes, process of teaching service- learning courses, community engagement, and the impact of service on their professional development.
In another initiative, Gelmon, Seifer, Kauper-Brown and Mikkelsen (2005), designed a self-assessment tool for institutions to assess their capacities for community engagement and community- engaged scholarship and to identify areas for action. The tool revolves around six dimensions: definition and vision of community engagement; faculty support for and involvement in community engagement; student support; community support; institutional leadership and support; and community-engaged scholarship. Each dimension has elements that correspond to four stages of institutional best practices in regard to commitment to community engagement and community scholarship. The result of the self-assessment tool enables/allows a particular institution to determine its present level of commitment to community engagement and community-engaged scholarship and areas for future action.
The Community-Campus Partnerships for Health (2013) developed a framework of an authentic partnership to guide existing
and newly-formed partnerships. It comprises four elements: 1) guiding principles of partnership; 2) quality processes; 3) meaningful outcomes; and, 4) transformative experiences. Moreover, issues related to community-engaged scholarship are being addressed by institutions. In an evaluation of a faculty development project for community-engaged scholarship, Gelmon, Blanchard, Ryan, &
Seifer (2012) identify important elements for academic institutions that include external funding support, on-going support for faculty development and the presence of a set of standard curricular tools.
The aforementioned studies are just a few of the initiatives of academic institutions and scholars to put into practice Boyer’s model of community-engaged scholarship. However, over the years, the discourse on what constitutes community-engaged scholarship and what could be considered as scholarship continues to be debated in the halls of academic institutions, both in developed and developing world settings.
The University of the Philippines (UP) Diliman, in particular, held a series of roundtable discussions to refine and institutionalize policies and processes for out-of-classroom academic engagement known as extension. Aside from teaching and research, extension is another important function of UP as part of its public service mandate as the National University. Given this backdrop, the College of Social Work and Community Development (CSWCD) continues to enhance and to refine its practice of community-engaged scholarship, given its disciplinal nature as an applied social science in the midst of the socio- economic, political and cultural context of the country. It posits that its scholarship is integrative – equally interweaving the three functions of teaching, research and extension – to strengthen the theory-practice as well as the learning-service connections (CSWCD, 2015):
Furthermore, the CSWCD’s notion of community-engaged scholarship is public service through volunteerism. Being a public service institution and considering the nature of its academic units’
disciplines, the College has a strong bias for service learning in poorer communities. Over the years of public service, the slogan “wagas Research will not bear fruit if it does not result in action that benefits the people. Extension work gives life to and provides a useful channel for the fruits of research. Research and extension work contribute to the improvement and enrichment of teaching. (p. 19)
na paglilingkod sa bayan” remains the moving force behind every voluntary initiative of the institution, and also serves as a mantra for both students and faculty in serving the poor and the marginalized sectors of Philippine society.
On the other hand, its notion of scholarship is by nature transformative while at the same time, within the standards of scholarship of excellence (CSWCD, 2015). By transformative, it means having a clear standpoint for the poor, marginalized and disempowered and most importantly, together with the people in poorer communities, taking actions towards positive change. As a measure of relevance, the question of “development for whom and for what?” (p.23) is always a central concern in every community-engagement scholarship that it pursues. From this perspective, the process is valued as equally important as the outcome:
Moreover, this notion of transformative scholarship starts from the individual, extends to the community and, ultimately, impacts the larger society, effecting change not only at the level of the individual in a particular social context but also for the poor and marginalized in society based on social justice (CSWCD, 2015). Likewise, this form of scholarship interweaves with standards of excellence that entail rigor and reflect the core values and ethics of the CSWCD. These core values – transparency and accountability, commitment to human rights, equity of outcomes, commitment to solidarity and respect for diversity, and commitment to environment preservation and ecological sustainability – and the ethics – informed consent and confidentiality – are strictly observed in any community-engaged scholarship pursuits (CSWCD, 2015).
Despite differences in ideas among its departments and units, there is unity in terms of scholarship goals, values and ethics as well The process of societal change underscores a transformative and empowering process that takes place in partnership with the community. It involves the faculty and the staff in a mutually beneficial relationship with the community. Both the academics and the community are co-learners in the process of transformation, such that the experience is educational and liberating for both. Central in the change process is the community who are the main actors rather than the objects of change. (CSWCD, 2015:23-24, underscoring mine)
as approaches (CSWCD Research Conference Proceedings, January 28, 2013 cited in CSWCD, 2015:32):
In application of the above, its community-engaged scholarship activities may include (CSWCD: 2015):
Aside from the above-mentioned activities, the Field Instruction Program (FIP) of the Department of Women and Development Studies (DWDS) is itself a form of community-engaged scholarship because it embodies all the features that constitute a transformative scholarship espoused by the CSWCD, and which is the subject of this paper.
Parameters of a Community-engaged Feminist Scholarship
Scholarship is a contentious concept debated in academic institutions and circles. Despite initiatives to expand its meaning based on Boyer’s model (1991), notions of community-engaged scholarship still hinge on academic tenure and promotion. This paper posits that disciplines in the applied social sciences, such as the academic departments of the CSWCD, could formulate their own concepts and parameters that best suit their disciplinal nature and contexts. Initially, taking off from the CSWCD’s notion of community- engaged scholarship, a community-engaged feminist scholarship has distinct features.
In terms of goals, the college underscores the transformative intent of scholarship which leads to societal change and empowerment. Moreover, programs and consultancies outside the academe are geared towards knowledge production and dissemination. Our values and ethics … include: a democratic process; centrality of experience; value struggles (personal is political; practicing what we preach); standpoint for the poor, marginalized and dis-empowered communities;
and a nurturing praxis…espous[ing] interdisciplinary and integrative approaches grounded to theorizing, and aiming at both movement building and reflexivity.
information and educational materials in various Philippine languages, public opinion pieces published in local newspapers, training materials of various kinds, documentation of community-based practices for the use of the communities themselves. (p.33)
Feminist Scholarship. In a broader term, feminism is defined as:
Such definition highlights the essence of scholarship in the theoretical and intellectual aspects of feminism. On the other hand, within the context of community-engaged undertakings, feminist scholarship is about the creation of knowledge and the acquisition of learning through the study and analysis of and interaction with people in communities. Generating knowledge is not for knowledge’s sake alone, but for gaining experience in how a body of knowledge is generated and used to respond to the practical needs and strategic interests of women and other marginalized groups in communities.
Moreover, feminist scholarship acquires and develops knowledge through the observance and application of feminist principles, values and ethics in all its community engagement methods and processes – organizing, research, education, counselling, program development, and other activities. Feminist principles and values include the following: democratic/shared decision-making, valuation of women’s knowledge and experiences, de/reconstructing power as shared leadership, making the invisible visible, and “personal is political.” At the same time, the feminist ethics – confidentiality, informed consent and giving back what is taken from the community – closely guide researches, community education/trainings and other community engagements.
Transformative scholarship. As defined by the CSWCD (2015), its community-engagement scholarship is transformative. Aside from having a “clear stance on the theoretical tradition it seeks to apply”
(p.21), it is also a scholarship that is integrative – unifying the three academic domains of teaching, research and extension. And most importantly, its knowledge outcomes lead to action and improvements:
development of relevant classroom- and field-based curricula, more a variety of interrelated frameworks used to observe, analyze, and interpret the complex ways in which the social reality of gender inequality is constructed, enforced and manifested from the largest institutional settings to the details of people’s daily lives which includes feminist scholarship. (Ali, Coate and Goro, 2000; Barsky, 1992; Bryson, 2002; Johnson, 1995; Ritzer 2000; Segal, 1999; Zalewski 2000 cited in Ngwainmbi, 2004.
responsive policies and programs that improve lives in communities, innovative and creative approaches that empower women and other marginalized groups – at the individual, organizational and community levels.
In addition, it subscribes to transformational politics that links personal and social issues and concerns. As such, its vision of change covers both personal as well as societal change, while its approaches and strategies serve as models for empowering women and other marginalized groups to make changes in their lives and in their communities (Kravetz, 1986).
Excellence-oriented scholarship. It draws inspiration from the CSWCD’s brand of scholarship that “strives for academic excellence based on clear standards of rigor and accountability developed and refined through time” (CSWCD, 2015: 24). Specifically for community- engaged feminist scholarship, its relevance to women and marginalized groups in communities, is one of the most important measures of scholarship of excellence. At the same time, the value of accountability is another key measure. From a feminist standpoint, accountability plays a central concern in a community-engaged feminist scholarship which could be examined at various levels: accountability to women and all marginalized groups; accountability to the partnership between the DWDS and partner organizations; accountability of students and faculty to one another as well as to the DWDS and partner organizations.
Using the above parameters, this paper examines the features of the FIP as to whether it could be considered as a community- engaged feminist scholarship.
The Theory and Practice of the Field Instruction Program
The FIP in Theory. The Field Instruction Program (FIP) – often called the fieldwork program or practicum – is an integral component of the graduate course of the Department of Women and Development Studies (DWDS). It was conceptualized as a core component of the graduate course to provide the students with venues for the integration of feminist theories and practice in community settings while working in partnership with women’s and mixed organizations.
On the theory side, it was developed based on the belief that “women’s studies need to be relevant to the realities of women, especially in poorer urban and rural settings”. At the same time, it was designed for the students to have “venues to refine feminist praxis as they work and learn together with grassroots women, while enhancing their knowledge, skills and attitudes for personal and professional development or as advocates of grassroots women’s issues” (DWDS Revised Field Instruction Program Manual 2006 cited in Barrameda, 2007, p.25).
Serving as the “practice” side of the graduate program, the FIP enables both the faculty and the students to link classroom learning to field experiences while creating impact on the lives of women and other marginalized groups in the communities. Moreover, the “classroom-fieldwork practice link” experience provided to the students is what sets the DWDS graduate program apart from other women studies programs offered in the country. On the part of the students, the “theory-informs-practice, practice-informs- theory” process provides them with thorough and “cyclical” learning experiences (Barrameda, 2007).
The FIP consists of two courses: Women and Development 280 (WD 280) which is required for students under the thesis track, while students under the comprehensive examination track are required to take both the WD 280 and 281 courses.
The FIP has three components that include: (1) a classroom- based field orientation about the academic requirements, agency and community placements; (2) actual fieldwork; (3) mid-and end- term sharing sessions of field experiences attended by the agency and faculty supervisors, representatives of community women’s organizations and other faculty members of the DWDS. The FIP is managed by a Faculty Coordinator, while field activities of students are mutually supervised by the agency and faculty supervisors.
The FIP in Practice. In its initial implementation, the FIP established linkages and partnerships with various women’s organizations and women NGOs, especially those coming from the women’s movements, where students were involved in various areas of development work: education and training, research, documentation, organizing, counselling and group therapy work, advocacy work, and more.
In 1997, the need to institutionalize these partnerships with women’s organizations and NGOs was seen in order to ensure continuity of partnership, to facilitate smoother coordination, and to create better impact. Given these thrusts, institutional partners were identified and pursued based on the following criteria: (1) pro-women standpoint; (2) diversity in areas of concern; (3) experience in feminist development work; (4) with capacity to supervise students in the field; (5) smooth coordination and placement in past FIP partnership;
and, (6) expressed interest in institutional partnership with the FIP (DWDS Revised Manual, 2006 cited in Barrameda, 2007).
Over the years, the DWDS has established partnership with four institutional partners: the Center for Women’s Resources (CWR), a resource center that provides research support to rural and urban grassroots women’s organizations; PaTaMaBa, a nationwide federation of home-based workers; LIKHAAN Center for Women’s Health, a non-government organization that provides health education, community organizing and reproductive health services to urban and rural poor women; and MAKALAYA, a women’s organization composed of women members of trade unions that provides education and information on gender issues in the workplace.
Moreover, the students enrolled in the FIP were involved in a wide array of issues: violence against women (VAW), reproductive health, adolescent sexuality, globalization, water privatization, migration, contractualization of women, conflict mediation, demolition, land eviction, environment, informalization of women’s work, enterprise development, LGBT+, lack of social services and social protection, food security, and safety and security – issues that many of the students went on to embrace as their own personal advocacies even after finishing their graduate studies (FIP Assessment Reports, 2010; 2016).
Problems in the Field. Based on the student and faculty assessments, the following were noted as problems in the field (DWDS Field Assessment Reports (2008; 2016):
• Limited fieldwork placements. Openings for students’
fieldwork assignments were lacking. In response, the DWDS expanded its engagement with other organizations, some on a short-term basis only. Over the years,
partnership has been extended to grassroots women’s organizations, mixed NGOs, feminist organizations, issue- based networks, regional formations, and lately, with local government units and academic-based programs or units within the University. Through the FIP, the students are exposed to and involved in various areas of development work – women organizing, participatory research, gender awareness and consciousness-raising, community training and education, casework and peer counselling, social enterprises, gender mainstreaming in local government units, campaigns and advocacy work, setting up women’s desks, and institutional assistance and organizational development.
• Differing views of students and partner agencies. Prior to fieldwork, the FIP requires that the students, the faculty and agency supervisors level off on areas of difference so that possible differences in analyses, frameworks, methods of work, and understanding of requirements are threshed out and agreements are firmed up in a memorandum of understanding (MOU). In addition, assessments are conducted with the agency supervisor and a copy of the students’ report is required to be approved by the agency prior to the mid- and end-term sharing sessions.
• Length of the FIP. Students have differing views about the 250-hour fieldwork requirement. Some find it too long while others find it too short. Since most of the students have full-time professional work, many have difficulty fulfilling this requirement. In response, the faculty supervisors are tasked to ensure that the work committed to the agencies is realistic and achievable within a one- semester time frame; while those who wish to extend their engagements with their respective agencies are advised to work with the agencies on a personal basis outside the requirements of the FIP.
• Resource support for students. Students assigned to grassroots women’s organizations would often contribute financial resources for community activities due to the latter’s limited resources. Such actions are discouraged by the FIP, however, and instead, students are encouraged to mobilize and capacitate organizations for fund-raising (e.g., garage sales, cash and in-kind solicitations, dance contests, etc.), to establish referral systems (e.g., linking up with the Department of Agriculture for training on urban gardening and seed dispersal, access to livelihood trainings from private and government organizations) and to facilitate co-sponsorship of these organizations’
activities, such as community for a, with government and private organizations.
Challenges, Lessons Learned and Good Practices. The FIP offers many significant opportunities for students’ learning, for community- engaged scholarship activities for faculty members, and for the capability-building of grassroots women’s organizations. However, refinement is still needed to address the following concerns:
(1) installing support mechanisms for the continuity of the joint development programs/projects developed in the field, (2) optimizing the fieldwork assignments of foreign students to make the best out of their FIP experiences and finding means to transcend language barriers in working with community women, and (3) exploring mechanisms for resource generation to fund field expenses of needy students.
On the other hand, the following lessons and good practices could be drawn out from the FIP experience: (1) the FIP provides avenues for students’ personal growth and development; (2) it actualizes a hand-holding relationship with community women’s organizations and NGOs; and (3) lessons culled from the field inform curricular development and enhancement.
For the students, the FIP not only provided them a venue for applying knowledge and skills learned in the classroom but, more so, for validating classroom-based theories. The field assignments allowed them to experience working in a collective – with other team members and the community women. The complex realities in the
field enabled them to better understand the realities of poor women -- eventually influencing them and developing their commitment to act on such issues and to work for the betterment of poor women even beyond their graduation.
For partner-agencies and community women’s organizations, they experienced feminist practices and ethics as modelled by the students. The principles of participation, collective and consultative processes, the ethics of confidentiality as opposed to being extractive, as well as the feminist tools and processes, taught by the students have influenced these organizations, as reflected in the latter’s planning, methods of work and programs. Feedback from some partner organizations included these comments:
At the same time, these partner organizations have influenced the students’ analyses of the former’s issues and strategies, while the rich experiences of the community women provided inputs to validate the students’ theories learned in the classroom. In the process, the students learned from them and affirmed that experiential knowledge of women is legitimate knowledge. In situations of differences, the students, the agency and faculty supervisors and the grassroots women engaged in dialogues to level off on concerns or issues. -- thus allowing the FIP to become a hand-holding partnership among equals.
On the part of the DWDS, the FIP serves to inform curricular content. Supervising students in the field enabled faculty supervisors to assess the students’ capacities learned from the classrooms; recognize the gaps in students’ knowledge, attitudes and skills in relation to the needs in the fieldwork communities; and identify burning issues confronting communities. These students’ gaps and community needs then informed curricular development and review. For instance, the
“The students helped us clarify what feminist counselling is. Confidentiality is an important thing taught to us by the students.” (Assessment with staff of the Family and Community Healing Center, 2015).
“Through the students, we were able to integrate gender in our regular planning and their researches helped us in our advocacy for affordable water as well as in the assessment of our work (Assessment with members of PaTaMaBa-Angono, 2015).
gap observed in the students’ handling of community trainings has led the DWDS to develop feminist pedagogy as an elective course. On the other hand, the issues of the LGBTs (lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgenders) in communities have enabled the DWDS to consider integrating these concerns in all classroom-based courses.
The FIP as a Community-engaged Feminist Scholarship
The FIP of the DWDS espouses the brand of community- engaged scholarship of UP-CSWCD that is transformative and excellence-oriented but nuanced by the disciplinal character of the Department – feminist in perspectives, methods and processes – in which feminist principles, values and ethics are interwoven in the practice and methods of work of both the students and the faculty in fieldwork settings.
The FIP as a Transformative Scholarship. In practice, the FIP moves beyond being an academic requirement but becomes an instrument for transformation for all the stakeholders involved.
At the personal level, the stark social reality in the field enabled students to see its connection to the larger societal realities, the lives of grassroots women as mediated by class, gender, age and other inequalities somehow mirroring their own conditions. The constant interactions of women and students through an action-reflection process resulted to heightened students’ political consciousness and commitment to change. Such transformation is expressed in these students’ reflections:
“It dawned on us that the realities and complexities, enveloped within women’s lives in the community and in the larger society, are connected with our own issues as well. We came to terms with ourselves… and the full realization that we are bounded by the related experiences of systemic oppression and exploitation.” (de Guzman & Mendoza, 2005)
“This action research is not just a simple course requirement to fulfill...but more so, on a personal level, I was enriched by the quality of interactions with ordinary women yet exceptional with the way they live their everyday lives in struggle with power, with poverty…with issues of violence…[their lives]
have drawn me the depths and nuances that informed me how I should see them and their struggles and how I should relate with them.” (Mercado, 2005)
At the institutional level, the FIP provides a mechanism for improving systems as well as changing policies. Lessons drawn from the FIP were utilized by the DWDS in improving FIP policies and curricular content. On the other hand, the research studies of the students became evidence-based information for the campaigns and advocacies of partner agencies and women’s organizations. For instance, the research done on port and water privatization in Tondo resulted in a sustained campaign by people’s organizations on these issues; the research on coal dumping, also in Tondo, mobilized the community to stage a continuous campaign that led to the closure of the coal plant; the research on the Gender and Development (GAD) budget utilization in Barangay UP Campus resulted in compliance of the LGU to allocate 5% to GAD concerns; and, the research on water privatization in Angono enabled women to claim their right to clean water and through dialogue with the local government, the community was provided with adequate and affordable potable water.
At the community level, the service learning provided by both the faculty supervisors and the students had helped to heighten community awareness and capacitate grassroots women and their communities to take action, to claim their rights, and to be advocates for social justice as shown in the above examples.
The FIP as a Feminist Scholarship. Practicing feminist principles, values and ethics is the cornerstone of the FIP as a form of community-engaged scholarship. Shared decision-making, valuation of women’s knowledge and experiences, de/reconstructing power,
“making the invisible visible,” and “personal is political” are some of the feminist principles and values put into practice by both the faculty and the students while in the communities.
Shared decision-making in community undertakings enabled those concerned – the DWDS and agency partners, the faculty and the students, the students and the grassroots women – to experience democracy at the micro level. Inviting the women as resource persons
“Since I had witnessed the hardships of most families…like being able to eat only once a day, I can honestly say it changed me. I now feel I have the obligation not to be wasteful, not to buy things that I do not need, or even as simple as not wasting food.” (Daep, 2007)
in fora and WD classes did not only acknowledge the value of their knowledge and experiences but legitimatized grassroots women’s knowledge as well. Enabling them to name and articulate their issues and experiences in public and from their own perspective is, in a way,
“making the invisible visible.”
Moreover, through the FIP practice, power as hierarchy is deconstructed and reconstructed. Hierarchy and notions of divides are debunked and negated as students learn to work as teams and grassroots women work in committees in their respective organizations. Consensus-building flourishes as both students and the women work within horizontal structures of leadership and organizational processes.
The “personal is political” is a principle immensely valued by students in their transition from being students to becoming feminists and activists. This is manifested in the field as students assist women to understand that their personal issues and problems are not their own doing (victim-blaming) but rather related to inequalities in all domains of life. Likewise, as students impart their knowledge and skills to grassroots women as personal commitments to social change, it then becomes a political act as it empowers and changes lives, not only for the grassroots women but for the students as well, as captured in this student’s insight:
“UP students have often endearing relations with the non- academic personnel in campus: there is Tatay, the regular janitor, whose comforting smile one can always count on to break the early morning rush to classes; there is Kuya, the guard and Manong, the gardener. There is Ate, who mops the ladies room; Mommy, who is always generous with extra rice in the canteen. We have our favorite turon and fishballs, too. They are and will remain – part and parcel of our fondest memories of university life. Although, come to think of it, we never get to know who they are or what their lives are outside the corridors of our school. How many among our favorite Ates and Mommies, I wonder, had also returned after dark to domestic hell? How many among our cherished campus Manongs and Kuyas were wife beaters and abusers in private? Has the UP community done enough to stop the violence and abuse? Have I? This field experience, however, has been an eye-opener in more ways than one. It has been an inspiring journey as well.
Moreover, informed consent, confidentiality and giving back are some of the ethics observed in relating and interacting with grassroots women. Particularly in research studies drawn from the field, ethics related to informed consent and confidentiality are given utmost importance. In addition, both the students and the faculty are aware of not being extractive of information but have to give back the benefits of these studies to the communities through actions – referrals, linking them to concerned institutions, barangay resolutions, etc. And most importantly, copies of researches, resource materials and integrated papers for the grassroots women’s organizations are translated into Filipino to be more useful to them.
The FIP as an Excellence-Oriented Scholarship. The FIP reflects the disciplinal character of Women and Development Studies as an applied social science. As such, it would be a disservice to the discipline if it were to be measured using the logico-positivist parameters – objective, value-neutral, predictable and generalizable – and/or by people who are not familiar with its disciplinal character. It is fair that disciplines like Women and Development Studies use their own parameters to fully give justice to their disciplinal character. Relevance and accountability are what set it apart from disciplines with other parameters.
The relevance of the FIP is determined by the extent to which it responds to the needs and issues of grassroots women, the LGBTs and other marginalized sectors. The knowledge products and other outputs generated by the FIP – innovative strategies in addressing VAW, capacity-building strategies, researches on various women’s issues with policy implications, revitalization and re-orientation of traditional community organizations (e.g., cooperatives, LGBT and women’s organizations) – eventually change lives. The relevance of its outputs and knowledge products also contributes in advancing the goals of building women’s and social movements. All these FIP outputs count more significantly as a form of scholarship.
I am humbled by the women’s courage and fierce dignity in the face of violence and abuse. Fieldwork – particularly of the feminist kind – in the non-academic underbelly of the university, can be a very disquieting experience.” (Feria, 2012)
Moreover, the FIP continues to be relevant and responsive to changing context. In its current community engagements, the FIP has developed innovations in response to pressing needs of the communities. Some key examples worth noting include: (1) the conceptualization of the eatUP program, a FIP project which is still at the developmental stage that aims to address food insecurity of UP students through the establishment of a cafeteria where needy students can access free meals without stigmatizing them; and (2) the refocusing of an organizing initiative in Barangay UP Campus from consolidation of a women’s organization to forging alliances among women’s organizations to respond to the safety and security concerns in the barangay, particularly, the rise of extra-judicial killings (EJK).
Together with the community women, two FIP students conducted a participatory safety and security audit in the community with the aim of drafting a barangay resolution to address issues of safety and security. Most importantly, the audit shed light on the issue of EJK, leading these women’s organizations to agree to get involved and not leave security concerns to police operations, but to take these in the hands and control of the community, especially when the government’s approach endangers the lives of innocent people.
Accountability is another measure of scholarship for the FIP. First and foremost, the FIP is accountable to those it professes to serve – grassroots women, LGBTs and other marginalized sectors.
At the same time, it is accountable for the safety, security and well- being of the students in the field. Ultimately, accountability is best operationalized in how the FIP practices its feminist values, ethics and standards in the field: women’s organizations and partner agencies are well-informed of all FIP undertakings; the safety, security and well-being of all – grassroots women, students, partners and faculty – are strictly guarded; and all knowledge products and outputs are validated by the grassroots women and the benefits are given back to them. Experiencing and adhering to such rigorous processes of accountability is scholarship in itself.
Moreover, the FIP as a scholarship observes rigor and excellence.
Before its knowledge products – researches, policy papers and resource manuals – are released for dissemination and popularization, these undergo a process of scrutiny involving validation and critiques by the grassroots women, the partner-agencies, the students, and colleagues at the DWDS. The students, in particular, have generated knowledge
products, research papers and other outcomes at par with those of other students and faculty, as evidenced by a number of these researches being presented in women’s fora and conferences, appearing as articles in journals and other publications, and receiving awards for best fieldwork papers. Similarly, the researches of the faculty are not only disseminated in conferences and journals but, more importantly, have been utilized by the Department as references for WD courses as a means of indigenizing references. Further, training manuals, policy papers and other outputs from the FIP are used by women’s groups for advocacy and for advancing the goals of the women’s and other social movements.
A Concluding Note
The DWDS FIP is a community-engaged feminist scholarship because it embodies all the parameters of scholarship as defined by the CSWCD in general and the DWDS in particular – transformative, feminist and excellence-oriented. First, it is a scholarship that is transformative in intent – empowerment of marginalized sectors for societal transformation. It is a transformative scholarship that benefits poor women, the LGBTs and other marginalized sectors, while it advances the mandates of the University and the CSWCD as institutions of public service. Second, it is a scholarship that is feminist in practice and processes: applies feminist principles, values and ethics to practice in community settings; works with grassroots women, the LGBTs and other marginalized sectors as equals; builds non-hierarchical community structures that practice lateral leadership; and challenges hierarchies and dichotomies in whatever forms and disguises. And third, its outputs and knowledge products produced by both faculty and students mirror a scholarship of excellence that passed through the rigor and scrutiny of the grassroots women, the partner-agencies and colleagues in the academe, while its analytical lens is grounded on theories and from the experiences of the faculty and students in their involvements in women’s and other social movements.
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