Women Empowerment and Development Program
The common reason for people leaving the Philippines is widespread poverty both in urban and rural areas. The government's inability to energize domestic economy to create good paying jobs, economic deprivation due to unemployment or underemployment, the rising costs of basic commodities/education, the continuing downward trend of economy, the unstable political landscape and the worsening peace and order situation in the country are the main reasons why many Filipinos leave the country to work overseas.
It has been noted that almost 60% of migrants leaving the country are women. As a result of the education and information program (PEOS) conducted by YMCA in rural communities, the need to provide alternatives and other income generating options for prospective migrants, particularly women had been seen. Thus, the Women Empowerment and Development Program had been initiated in two (2) pilot communities. The first one was in Iguig, Cagayan where 45% of participants are either directly related to or migrant returnees themselves. The second one is in Dingras, Ilocos Norte where 98% of participants are immediate members of migrants or returned migrants. This program aims to improve the living condition of women in communities through the provision of opportunities to become productive members of their respective communities.
Trade Liberalization caused the drop in prices of primary products in Ilocos Norte, lowering the average family income. (tobacco, onion, garlic, tomatoes and other farm products)
Men engage in vices and spend so much to support them instead of providing for family needs. (gambling, drinking, videoke bars)
Men control the decision-making at home financial management claiming that they are the "breadwinners".
Women's contributions are not given due recognition (they also help in farm work besides their responsibilities at home).
Men often have the opportunities to take leadership in community affairs.
Women are only given supportive roles (even if they are more qualified than their male counterparts)
III. Program Components and Process Applied:
Social Preparation. This includes profiling, cells formation, mobilizing women to participate in planning, implementation, management and organizational strengthening;
Capability Building and Productivity Development. Women participate in business/entrepreneurship skills training/development, community organization and mobilization, feasibility study, forum, consultations and workshops;
Micro Enterprise Lending facility. Women are given access to capital to enable them to start small scale business, develop production and marketing strategy and initiate savings mobilization for self-help financing;
Networking. Through this process they gain access to relevant information, basic support services on on-farm activities, more economic opportunities through partnerships and collaborative effort addressing common agenda;
Gender Sensitivity Training. Not only women need to be emancipated from the stereotyped roles accorded to them by society. Men's participation and involvement in the learning/education process has been strongly encouraged to provide understanding and promote harmonious relations among men and women both in domestic and community sphere.
IV. Program Impact to the Communities
"Great things come from small things". We have to start from somewhere to accomplish things, attain goals and reach our dreams and aspirations. The Women Empowerment and Development process in the two pilot areas - Iguig, Cagayan and Dingras, Ilocos Norte - took so many twists and turns before they reached where they are right now.
Women in 2 pilot communities have become major contributors in earning for their families.
Family members and the community now recognize their efforts and contributions in general. They serve as models to their neighbour communities. A total of 94 member families are directly involved in the project.
The community has now elected women leaders.
Men participate in education sessions particularly in gender sensitivity trainings.
The people through cooperative efforts built the Community centre.
Computer learning and electronic communication was set-up in partnership with a local NGO.
Savings mobilization build-up has been started through monthly provident fund and capital interest income.
A portion of this savings was invested to a "feed project" as a service to the community and additional income for the group.
Harmony was created in the community making people look forward to expanding the project to other communities.
The road towards women empowerment took twists and turns that could have made the people tumble if they were not organized. But since they are organized and have unity, they moved together and stood up to these challenges. First, the difficulty to challenge themselves, the beliefs they had since childhood. Second, the challenge of facing their male counterparts knowing that the process may lead to lessening men's power as they become empowered. Another is the challenge posed by other women in the community - the taunts thrown at them that they are just wasting their time; that women should accept their current situation because that is their role in the family and society. The resistance of men is also a big challenge because women empowerment will really be difficult without men's cooperation. In a patriarchal society where women are taught that they must be submissive to men, the road towards women empowerment will really be rough unless women and men will unite and move together towards their emancipation.
Further training of YMCA staff and volunteers to implement similar transformational actions at local level.
Encourage sustained partnership to share and learn from the experiences of others.
ELOISA D. BORREO
BRENDA A. ALMARIO
YMCA of the Philippines
1. c/o YMCA of Quezon City
109 C. Benitez St., Cubao Quezon City
Telefax: (632) 415-7621
2. YMCA of the Philippines
350 A. Villegas St. Ermita, Manila