How it’s done: Woman mayor improves town performance

Willpower, meticulousness, strategic thinking, and community building come naturally to women. These qualities have not only endeared Mayor Nashiba Gandamra-Sumagayan to her constituents but also helped bring progress to Taraka in Lanao del Sur.

The proof of her hard work is the conferment of the 2020 Civil Service Commission Pagasa Award (Regional Winner for the Honors Program) for outstanding governance.

Sumagayan was credited for turning a fourth-class municipality into a progressive community. She has maintained the peace and order vital to the progress of every locality.

The mayor acknowledges her predecessor and husband, Amenodin, for initiating vital changes when he was the mayor. Amenodin settled long-standing family feuds which had intimidated the community. More police officers patrolled the neighborhoods, curbing crime and drug-related activities.

“Peace and order has always been our top priority. Our collective efforts have led to the various accomplishments of our security forces,” she says.

The Taraka-MPS (Metropolitan Police Service) was conferred the Medalya ng Papuri for arresting the top three most wanted suspects.

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Spending on infrastructure was likewise a priority. With the help of government organizations, farm-to-market roads, multi-purpose buildings, water systems, RHU (rural health unit) buildings, and a Municipal Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office, among other structures, were built. The municipal hall was also expanded and the municipal gymnasium renovated.

The mayor enhanced the social services such as continuing education programs amid the pandemic. Every month, Sumagayan would meet with the local school board to discuss how the learners were faring and how the local government could improve the educational system. As a result, her LGU merited the Seal of Good Education Governance in 2019 from the Synergeia Foundation, a league of organizations espousing quality education, and the United States Agency for International Development.

Before she entered politics, Sumagayan was assistant professor in English and literature at the Mindanao State University. “I invested time in my work so that I would be able to equip my students with the essential skills needed to reach their goals,” she enthuses.

She admits her biggest challenge then was balancing her role as teacher, mother, and wife to her husband who was then Mayor and was girding for the bar exams. She did not allow the pressures of family life affect her work. Even if she felt under the weather, she continued to teach with enthusiasm.

Further, Sumagayan has made health services more accessible to her constituents. The RHU provides newborn screening kits, incentives for tuberculosis-cured children, and hygiene kits.

Dr. Bolawan Delawi, RHU head, and the Zuellig Family Foundation have implemented various health programs. With the police and other departments, Sumagayan has been conducting an awareness campaign on smoke-related health problems. The LGU has since been placed in the Hall of Fame of the Red Orchid Awards, the Department of Health’s incentive for tobacco-free environments.

Taraka has managed to control the COVID-19 pandemic through the Sangguniang Bayan, headed by Vice Mayor Amenodin Sumagayan.

Through a series of house-to-house relief operations, Sangguniang Bayan distributed hygiene kits and horticulture crops, and procured health materials for disinfection. Frontliners were given personal protective equipment and free meals. When the lockdowns put the livelihood of daily-wage earners on hold, the mayor provided cash assistance.

Sumagayan points out that her greatest achievement has been to empower her associates and her constituents by making them believe in their potential. Throughout her term, Taraka has received the seals from the Department of the Interior and Local Government for good governance, most gender responsive municipality, good financial housekeeping, disaster preparedness, business friendliness, and peace and order.

This year, Sumagayan plans to establish an agricultural and livelihood program with the vision of making Taraka an economic hub. She hopes to implement Mindanao Development Authority chairperson Emmanuel Piñol’s solar-powered irrigation system, an anti-poverty program that aims to provide water and improve crop production in isolated provinces.

“This will not only help our farmers but also our constituents who do not have enough to support themselves. We will be able to establish a local enterprise where everyone will benefit most especially our vulnerable sectors,” she says.

Aside from improvements in her municipality, her collaborative leadership style has also brought Muslim women to the forefront. “Muslim women leaders across the globe are proving that their biological makeup and their social stereotypes do not reflect their potential,” she emphasizes.

“Muslim women are independent and spiritual individuals in their own right. They are firm in their resolve and inclined to lead against odds. Despite living in patriarchal societies, they stand on their ground and let their voices be heard. They speak for other people and show immense compassion towards their communities. This is what fuels them to brave every challenge that comes their way. This is what makes Muslim women leaders special.

(This story was published in the Manila Standard on Jan. 6, 2021)