Women for Leni: Striving Towards Lakas at Liwanag
A steady wave of support for Vice President Leni Robredo has taken over online platforms and spread onto the streets through citizen-led caravans since she filed her candidacy for the highest position in the land in October.
The country is seeing it more and more often: various groups sprouting up and shouting out loud and proud that they support Leni Robredo for President.
But way back when Robredo was still a neophyte lawmaker making her debut into national politics, Women for Leni or W4L was assembled to support her.
W4L was launched in December 2015 at the Araneta Coliseum by a collective of women’s organizations to gear up for then Congresswoman Robredo's vice presidential campaign.
This network of diverse women’s groups had a strong common belief that Robredo was the sole candidate that could represent women’s issues and highlight their advocacies at the national level.
At the core of W4L was the objective to highlight the ability of women to nurture and lead other women towards a united women’s vote.
W4L was an organized volunteer campaign that helped introduce Robredo to various multisectoral groups, and equally important, became an avenue for her to listen and learn from women from diverse backgrounds and experiences.
Through the many months of the campaign in 2016, W4L held dialogues with barangay health workers in Iloilo, single mothers in Bulacan, and women farmers of the Bangsamoro, among others. The insights from the many conversations and consultations around the country that revolved around women’s economic empowerment became the fuel that kindled the beginnings of Angat Buhay, the Vice President’s anti-poverty program.
W4L may have started as a women’s movement with a modest number of members six years ago, but has since become more active on social media with almost 70,000 Facebook followers that continue to increase. The composition of its members has expanded to include members of the LGBTQIA+ community as well as men, embodying Leni’s message of inclusivity.
The group believes it has found a leader in Robredo who personifies the traits “lakas at liwanag”.
“Lakas is the strength to stand for one’s principles despite the challenges of discrimination; and the strength to fight misogyny along with the massive propaganda and proliferation of fake news,” says W4L spokesperson Shebana Alqaseer. “Liwanag is the creation of collective hope. People know that there is a leader and candidate who can manage us out of the pandemic, a leader who listens and a leader with the heart for the masses” because she has already shown us what she can do.
Two years ago, at the start of the pandemic when all forms of public transport ceased operations, Robredo was the first to respond to the needs of medical front-liners by providing free shuttle service. By July 2020, the free shuttle service program was able to expand to three routes in Cebu.
Just a week after the start of the first lockdown, together with private partners of the Angat Buhay program, she was able to launch the free dormitory to medical health workers. When there were mass shortages of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), Robredo mobilized fashion designers to create locally open-sourced PPEs in 48 hours.
In 2021, Robredo initiated the “Swab Cab”, a mobile antigen testing center sent to local government unit hotspots to help stem local transmission. To aid in decongesting hospitals, the OVP also started the “Bayanihan E-Konsulta”, a free medical teleconference for outpatients made available thru widely used apps, Facebook and Messenger.
Despite the meager government budget allocation of her office, Robredo was able to make targeted, innovative, and responsive initiatives by listening to the needs of the people and collaborating with various experts to implement the program.
W4L believes that now more than ever, this brand of transformative leadership is needed, a governance that believes in an inclusive, consultative, and collective approach to finding solutions and empowering others.
Jesh Villasis, a member of W4L, describes how the Leni Robredo style of leadership answers the call to serve others.
“Uhaw ang karamihan at naghahanap ng bahay na masisilungan,” she said. “One that does not only champion the self but also others.” [End]