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Social Workers: No time for celebration?

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It’s Social Work Week in the Philippines. The celebration commemorates the anniversary of the Republic Act 4373, otherwise known as the Social Work Law. The passage of the Social Work Law on June 19, 1965 has regulated the practice of social work and the operation of social welfare agencies in the Philippines. Subsequently, it has created a new interest in social work and in the field of social welfare. Incidentally, the date falls on the birthday of the Philippine national hero, Dr. Jose P. Rizal.

After the forum on “Social Work and the Current Social Protection Concerns and Demands” to culminate the celebration of the 7th Social Work Week in Iloilo, I cannot help but reflect on the past celebrations. Locally, this year’s activities pale in comparison to the first 5 years of celebration. In the national level, there appears to be a lull.

Going over my memoirs, courtesy of yahoo, I found some highlights in the exchanges of communication thru web. Paragraphs in italics are excerpts from messages on the paswi_national@yahoo groups.com. Details can be viewed by clicking the link. The chronology of events started with the backgrounder of the position paper submitted to the national body during the Chapter Presidents Assembly on July 29, 2005

Some weeks after the National Convention of PASWI and NASWEI in Baguio City and Zamboanga City, respectively, a series of joint meetings and regional consultations were held in Iloilo City for updating especially for those who were not able to attend the two conventions. In a particular meeting, the paradigm shift on policy advocacy was given emphasis which led participants (mostly NASWEI member schools) to exhaustively look for ways and means in pooling resources to deliberately and systematically promote the Social Work profession and its significant role in effecting social transformation. In the process, we found out that this year is the 40th year of the Social Work Law. So, we thought of making the occasion a good opportunity to unite in promoting our profession.

With such discovery, we were very excited to think of activities to maximize the celebration. We thought of coming up with a resolution requesting President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to declare June 13-19 as Social Work Week in Western Visayas, as it will be within our area of influence. It gained strong support from other social work-led organizations and alliances in the region, as well as government officials and NGO leaders in the Regional Development Council. However, the Regional Development Council, which endorsed our resolution, opted for the national declaration as the Social Work Law is national in scope. Hence, the declaration should benefit other provinces in various regions.

Getting the clue from people in the authority, we informed both the PASWI and NASWEI National board through e-mail of this discovery and subsequent move to solicit support either thru endorsement of the resolution or making a national resolution related to the regional resolution. (For the PASWI, my first communication was sent to the Chairman of the Board as early as 2nd week of March, copy furnished to other members latter. Eventually, I communicated with the National President). We also ask for the support of DSWD Secretary. After some follow up, we were informed that the Office of the President has forwarded the request to the DSWD Central Office for comment. Consequently, the Execom acted favorably on the resolution and waited for the endorsement from PASWI National leadership. Last April 7, the national board decided to endorse the resolution only to retract it later.

The following issues were raised by the PASWI National Board when it flip flops in its endorsement of the Social Work Week: lack of knowledge of the Board regarding the DSWD-PASWI 2003 pending request to change the November Social Welfare Week to Social Welfare and Development Month; the perceived confusion that may come up in the future should Social Work Week be declared in June; and the absence of proper protocol. These were resolved later and PASWI National called for the national celebration sans former PGMA declaration.

In 2006, PASWI continued the celebration with the following call from the national president.

In 2007, the new president reiterated the organization’s commitment for the celebration. However, due to election time and advocacy for the Magna Carta for Public Social Workers, the celebration was not given much focus.

Excerpts from the memorandum of the PASWI President highlights the 2009 celebration with the conduct of the Philippine World Social Work Day.

However,there appears to be a lull in the national celebration for 2010-2011. This is not necessarily due to the lack of interest on the part of social workers. For social workers are always in the forefront of national welfare celebrations for respective sectors they serve. Is it because social workers spend so much time in serving others, that they do not have time left for celebration?

If so, there is a need for support system to bridge the gap. Our experience for the past seven years of celebration show the significant role of social workers in the academe. As mentioned earlier, the move was initiated by social workers in the academe, particularly member schools of the National Association for Social Work Education, Inc. (NASWEI) in Western Visayas. Since then, the local and regional celebrations have been spearheaded by social work educators. Perhaps because they have more time to spare than direct practitioners in various settings. Speaking of social work education, I find the following links interesting: Guide to Online Schools for online degree in social work classes and courses towards an online social work degree

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