Every year March is celebrated as International Women’s Month. As such, several institutions and groups would organize events to celebrate women who made a significant contribution to the world. For their part, the University Library Gender and Development Committee organized an online storytelling event on March 26 via the Zoom platform for children ages 5-12, entitled, “Kwentong Lockdown ng mga Kababaihan: A Storytelling Activity.”This endeavor was facilitated and led by Ms. Melanie Abad Ramirez, a Kwentistang Laybraryan who has extensive experience in conducting storytelling for children. According to the committee, the objectives were to promote reading among children through storytelling, entertain the children during this pandemic, develop their communication skills, and most importantly, introduce the concepts of gender equality and women empowerment.
To shed more light on the activity, we sat down with one of the committee members, Ms. Rina Cossid, Head Librarian of the Asian Center Library. First off, as the participants were children, we asked her how they reacted to the activity. “Overall, the children, as well as their guardians/parents, were happy and participative. The storyteller connected with the participants through the engaging movements she demonstrated and even asked them questions to make them feel they are part of the story. She let the children express their feelings. Also, you could notice the children’s eye and hand coordination and muscle movement the entire time. I think their focus improved because the storyteller was able to connect with them,” she said.
Conventionally, storytelling has been used to convey information or content with fantasy, picture books, folk tales, and the like. As librarians, another critical question is whether storytelling may be considered an effective way to introduce social issues among children. According to Rina, “Yes. In celebration of Women’s Month, we, the ULGAD Committee, thought to reach out to children as our audience. The storyteller, Ms. Melanie “Ate Melai” Ramirez, featured the stories “Ang Nanay kong Driver”and the classic “Papel de liha” to highlight the role of women as parents, workers, and co-equals in the family and society. The stories showed how women could accomplish and perform jobs usually associated with men and celebrated motherhood in all its forms.”
In recent years, libraries have begun to undertake initiatives beyond the usual duty of providing information, particularly towards social change. We asked Rina if libraries in the Philippines can be great vehicles for promoting women’s welfare. “Yes. Libraries can and should be enablers of gender equality. As such, provided it is related to the curriculum/program and endorsed by the faculty, we acquire books on women, gender, and development. In UPD, some libraries have Gender and Development Collection, and staff would actively undertake programs and activities for Women’s Month,” she eagerly stated.
As individuals, may we constantly educate the younger generation of the importance of treating women and all genders with respect and dignity. The significant contribution of women in our society cannot be stressed enough. We see them through our mothers, sisters, daughters, cousins, and friends. Through our ways, may continue to honor and celebrate women, not just on Women’s Day, but every day.