A foreign-assisted project seeking to empower women while protecting the environment is creating an impact in the remote coastal barangay of Isugod, Quezon town.
A group of local women there which had formed themselves into a cooperative engaged in seaweed farming share a view that their role as mothers has evolved.
“Dati kaming babae ay sa bahay lang, bundok, ganon lang kami dati at wala kaming muwang sa kung anong proyekto ng LGU. Ngayong nagkakasama-sama na kami, natututo na kami, ayaw na namin magpaiwan sa bahay, kung saan ang okasyon sumasama kami mas maganda na marami ka makilala,” Susie Guzarem, a member of Cherish Fisherfolk’s Association, said.
The association was formed some four years ago under USAID-assisted Wildlife Protect Project.
In 2016, the project started with the credit support to the community for the seaweeds farming, expanding later to help other fisher folks, upland communities and indigenous peoples.
Susie Guzarem said that their active involvement in the community has helped define new roles for them as women.
“Minsan kasi nagbabayanihan kami, yong mga kasama ko na kababaihan nagtutulungan kami sa pagtanim ng seaweeds. Gagantihan namin ng trabaho, kesa magbayad ka sa iba. Sa mga lalaki ganon din kapag maghuhulog ng agar sa dagat. Parang isang pamilya ang mga babae dito,” she said.
Through their seaweeds farming, Susie said their mothers have been able to send their to school.
A mother of nine, Susi said that she could support her children’s education with the help of his husband who is also a fisherfolk in Sitio Balintang.
The Protect Wildlife has been working with local communities in identified strict protection zones in protected areas and public lands, providing livelihood opportunities.
Protect Wildlife Gender and Social Safeguards Specialist Jacqueline Bacal said they have partnered with Lutheran World Relief (LWF) and Ecumenical Church Loan Fund (ECLOF) to help women access credit and improve their livelihood in seaweeds through having land base and floating drier.
“Nong pumasok tayo with the Lutheran World Relief and with ECLOF because we don’t give money so nakipag-conduit na lang tayo to help the women access credit and part non is kailangan nila umangat sa seaweeds dahil kung saan-saan lang nila dina-dry off ang seaweeds before,” she said.
She said that through seaweed farming for example which family members are involved with the livelihood, women can see how equality starts as each of them has a role to play.
Bacal said that part of their assessment is to strengthen the organization and on how to manage the enterprise.
“During the assessment that we did two weeks ago, part of it is really strengthening the organization and also the enterprise on how to manage. As you can see, some of the associations are only after the project ay wala na. We would like to sustain that through linking them with other organizations or private sectors so sila na ang magpapatuloy,” she said.
Bacal said however there are difficulties in making the project succeed.
“Ang isang problema ay binabarat sila ng traders, even you have a very good solar drier. If very dried, the moisture content is good and also clean dahil hindi na sa buhangin pinapatuyo so sana mas mataas kaya lang alam naman ang traders minsan,” she said.
She said that as they started their intervention with the community, positive change with the community’s attitude have seen since it started in 2016. Their involvement with the community’s concern and cooperation between each other have become visible.
Protect Wildlife Chief of Party Rebecca Paz expressed her hope that they could accomplish more in the remaining time of their intervention with the community.
“We have maintained our relationship with the community, sa ngayon pinapalawak kasi nagkaroon ng bagong program ang Protect Wildlife, ang W-GDP, a global program, pangkababaihan. Sa program na ito, we hope na can accomplish in the remaining period ng project,” she said.
Paz said that they are working out on how to help the community be enterprise ready with their main production from seaweed farming and they could also have an overview with the trade process.
“Ito ang tinitingnan namin kung paano i-strengthen ng community ng organization ang kanilang enterprise development yong ganon. Ang focus nya would be enterprises para sa Protect Wildlife, we are looking on how we could help this organization in the remaining time of the project,” Paz said.