Teresa "Tessie" Banaynal-Fernandez (born 1953), the executive director of Lihok Filipina Foundation, is the passionate soul of the movement for women's rights and empowerment in Cebu City, a trailblazer in "alternative politics" for its ubiquitous but voiceless urban poor residents. Her tireless advocacy of women's rights has helped change the lives of many women and influenced government institutions, non-government organizations, and universities to take on such "unpopular" issues as domestic violence, gender sensitivity, good governance, environmental protection and human rights.
Tessie Banaynal-Fernandez began her advocacy for women's rights, gender sensitivity, and environmental action in her college days and continued during the perilous times of the Marcos dictatorship. She grew up in Lanao province, the second of seven children in a modest home, finished her degree in sociology and history at Xavier University in Cagayan de Oro City and worked on Catholic Church-based programs for the poor and the tribal communities in Mindanao. Joining her husband in Cebu, she continued working, this time for the rights of the urban poor to housing, livelihood and welfare. Tessie also set up the Lihok Filipina Foundation, which pioneered in women's rights and gender sensitivity. Appointed to head Cebu City’s urban poor office, she conducted a survey on domestic violence, which found that six out of ten women in the community were being battered. This led to the formation of "Bantay Banay" (community watch) in 1992, a community-based and multi-stakeholder approach to end domestic violence. Police enforcers, social workers, councilors, lawyers and village chiefs were trained in gender sensitivity and human rights to help them respond to domestic problems. "It was time to realize that domestic violence and gender sensitivity are public concerns because they are commonly felt by women," asserts Tessie. "Barangay" (village) volunteers were trained and a referral system was opened where non-government organizations, government agencies and professionals are tapped to help. Bantay Banay has been replicated in 70 cities and towns all over the country, effectively making the issue of domestic violence not only a public issue but also one of governance. Tessie continues to pursue her other concern, the environment, particularly solid waste management, water conservation and watershed protection.
Lihok Filipina Foundation Commmission for the Urban Poor