Lessons on diving, marine protection and gender equalityBy Cris Evert B. Lato
PANGLAO ISLAND, Bohol- THE COUNTRY’S rich marine biodiversity still awes Filipino-French Leucodia Angioyna Trotin.
Learning from her father, Jacques, how to dive at an early age, Trotin got her first junior open water diver’s license when she was 9 years old.
Now 24, she manages the family-owned Bohol Divers’ Resort, which her father put up on Panglao Island in Bohol.
Trotin and her brother, Leucodio, were named after the Cypraea leucodon (white-toothed cowry), which had fascinated their father because of its color and appearance. The shell is shiny and chocolate brown with white spots.
Although she has been going around the globe to dive, she continues to be amazed by the diversity of Philippine marine life. Unfortunately, this has been taken for granted by many people, she said.
Trotin said she had been spearheading activities, with help from Bohol Divers’ Club and Panglao Business Club, to raise public awareness of the importance of the seas in the neighboring coastal communities. At times, she said, she was not taken seriously because of her gender.
“There is still that culture that girls cannot voice out their opinions or have a choice, especially in the province and rural areas where young girls are sent out to work for the family,” Trotin said.
The woman found an opportunity to merge her two personal causes—protecting the coasts and women empowerment —when PLAN International asked her resort to partner with it in launching the “Because I Am A Girl Campaign” on International Coastal Cleanup Day.
The activity will be officially launched on Oct. 11, which also marks the first worldwide celebration of the International Day of the Girl Child.
“PLAN believes that all girls and boys have the right to be protected from harm caused by disaster, environmental degradation and climate change.
“Girls, in particular, have special needs that must be taken care of during times of emergencies and disasters,” said program coordinator John Diviva, a marine biologist.
On Sept. 15, 15 divers joined the “Dive Cleanup for Girls’ Rights,” at the marine sanctuaries of Balicasag Island and Barangay Tawala on Panglao.
They were later oriented on coastal resource management, children’s rights and the campaign.
A kayaking clinic, organized by Kayakasia Philippines, was also held.
PLAN, Bohol Divers’ Resort and the Inquirer conducted a read-along session attended by 57 children from Danao Elementary School. The storytellers were actor Christopher Roxas and TV5’s “Talentadong Pinoy” winner Ferdinand “Makata” Clemente.
PLAN’s gender adviser, Lydia Domingo, and child protection adviser, Selena Fortich, talked about children’s rights. Unilab gave flu vaccine shots to the children.
The campaign is supported by a study by the Women and Gender Institute of Miriam College, which noted that girls experienced more domestic violence than boys. This, in turn, reinforced male dominance in the household and the community, which consequently impeded female empowerment, it said.
“Although both girls and boys are subjected to violence and discrimination, the gravity is different and more difficult for girls due to the persistence of traditional norms and beliefs that impinge on the construction of gender roles,” the study said.
Like diving, Trotin said girls should know that they could make things possible. Women, she added, should know that they could stand up and speak out.
“Some are afraid to try out [diving], but I tell them that there are steps in learning how to dive. I try to tell them that it is not something to be afraid of. Definitely, women can do it. There is just a need to empower girls—to let them know that they have rights and they should not remain quiet,” she said.