Women’s Front: Livelihood programs and urban poor women


Baguio City has become a favorite destination not only for local and international tourists but also for those in search of better jobs and better quality of life in general. They flock into the city not only from the rural indigenous communities of the region but also from other parts of the country. However, for a majority of them, the city is unyielding and as cruel as the reality which they tried to escape from. They continue to confront poverty and joblessness on a daily basis. Jobs are scarce, not to mention that these are often seasonal, if not contractual, and are insufficient sources of income especially if you don’t have the necessary requirements – diploma, experience and of course, pleasing personality.

Perhaps the most vulnerable to this are the women. The government, to some extent, recognized this as they targeted women’s organizations as beneficiaries to their anti-poverty programs. In Baguio City, these programs are implemented mainly by the City Social Welfare and Development Office (OCSWDO), the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) and the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI). The most common are livelihood skills training such as loom-weaving, knitting, rug-making, accessories making, etc; small loan grants in support of women’s initiatives in microbusiness; and awarding of equipment for food processing (mainly peanut-butter) and/or loom-weaving/sewing/knitting.

Innabuyog and the Cordillera Women’s Education Action and Research Center (CWEARC) conducted focus group discussions and key informant interviews among members of beneficiary-women organizations and local government units in Barangays Gibraltar, Camp 8, Irisan (particularly in Lower Cypress) and Asin Road to gauge the effectiveness of these poverty reduction and job generation measures.

Majority of the beneficiaries lament that while these programs are helpful, they have created more problems than solutions. In Gibraltar and Camp 8, the projects brought misunderstandings among members of beneficiary-organizations instead of fostering a tighter unity among them. Even worse is that their organizational problems has spilled over into their community lives and created intrigue in the community which further divided them.

These misunderstandings usually arose from financial matters and mismanagement of the awarded projects. This shows that the agencies concerned need to ensure that beneficiary-organizations are well-equipped with skills and capacity-wise to manage these projects. Also, concerned agencies need to improve the monitoring and evaluation of the programs implemented by their offices. One of the interviewees said, “Kasla nga agin-agin, inted da laeng namingsan, siguro tapno adda ireport da, haan da met nga monitoren nu agpayso nga maus-usar [dagiti inted da]” (The projects seems to be ningas-kugon. Perhaps they dole out the fund once just to say that they have implemented something. They do not monitor if the projects were used properly .)

In Gibraltar where one women’s organization was able to access a number of livelihood programs and assistance from various government agencies and officials since 2008, only three of the members have maximized what they have accessed and made it their main source of income. The other members are back to square one – that is, jobless and relying on available por dia. This is because the market for their products (knitted bonnets, shawls, etc and peanut butter) cannot accommodate what they were producing.

This problem on sustainable market for livelihood projects is also faced by the women’s organization that was able to access loom-weaving equipment through DOLE in Camp 8 in 2015. One of the Barangay Kagawad interviewed said, “itatta, ti problema, adu ti produkto da (referring to the women) nga naabel ngem naistack ta bassit ti mailako da” (The problem now is the market. The women have piled-up finish products because they can hardly sell them).

This situation is also reflected in Lower Cypress, Irisan. The women’s organization that was able to access equipment for rug-making from DOLE say that they are forced to sell their products at a relatively low price because the market for their products is very limited.

Moreover, the awarded projects has encouraged an individualistic culture which further aggravates the already deteriorating practice of our positive tradition of ub-ubbo. Members of beneficiary-organizations are so focused on their own economic endeavor that they fail to see the importance of working together to address the well-being of each of their members.

These projects also breed a culture of dependence among the beneficiaries, instead of promoting self-reliance. In Lower Cypress, Irisan, women beneficiaries are heavily relying on what the government can give instead of relying on their organizational strength to alleviate their situation.

All these show that current poverty reduction and job generation measures, while they are helpful, still remain as band-aid solutions or simple dole-outs. What women need are comprehensive and sustainable poverty solutions such as national industrialization which will foster genuine economic growth which will in turn create appropriate and regular employment opportunities not only for women, but for the whole labor force.#nordis.net


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