One of the women-beneficiaries at work.

Maragusan, Compostela Valley  -Women in Barangay New Panay face various difficulties in pulling out their community from poverty.

Amidst the turmoil that takes place in the area, making dreams for a better life seem to be elusive, their hope continues to light up that there is still a better life awaiting them.

In this far-flung barangay, illiteracy rate has been high due to financial instability and incidence of local armed conflict.

Residents on the other hand do not participate in community events. They keep their silence thinking that the best way to live a better life is to be left alone and just do your own thing.

Aspiring students in the area have no choice but to stop schooling because their parents simply cannot afford it.

These problems in the community remain to be a never ending cycle. Such situation is even aggravated by the prevailing armed conflict in the area.

“We already got used to the thought that the problems here in our community will never stop,” said Mary De Guzman, chair of Barangay Sub-Project Management Committee of Kalahi-CIDSS Pamana.

Fondly called by many as Nanay Mary, De Guzman’s family, just like that of the other residents, experienced poverty at its lowest point. She almost gave up at encouraging others because she also had her moments of being drained due to her own moments of weakness and hopelessness.

De Guzman admitted it has been indeed a struggle for the families of Barangay New Panay to uplift their way of living.

Embracing the life of a stereotype wife, she took care of her husband and children, provided all their needs before they hit work and school. She did all the household chores, and she seldom left home to socialize with others.

Her life revolved in her family. Her growth as an individual was her last priority.

This held true for the other women in the community. According to her, they already felt contented being housewives as men usually take the more active role in society.

“It was hard to take part in our barangay activities. Conflicts erupted most of the time because of differing opinions of the residents here. Instead of tackling solutions to the problems, local leaders and residents focused on the feud that is why it never stopped,” De Guzman lamented.

Getting their acts together

When Kalahi-CIDSS PAMANA (Payapa at Masaganang Pamayanan) reached their barangay, things started to change.

The program aims at empowering communities and strengthening the people’s capacities in order to address issues of vulnerability and peace through activities that promote social cohesion.

Program implementation undergoes Community Empowerment Activity Cycle (CEAC) wherein the community undertakes development actions where people are the key-players in decision making.

During the first cycle, the women in New Panay engaged in Participatory Situation Analysis where residents identify their problems.

In collectively responding to the priority problem, the womenfolk zeroed in on Non-Formal Education on Embroidery.

The community residents were united that this sub-project would enhance the capacity of women and provide them the opportunity to augment their meager family income.

In support to the women of New Panay, the municipal local government and the barangay provided counterpart and facilitated as well the training with the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA).

Through Kalahi-CIDSS Pamana, the community was granted 11 sewing machines and other sewing materials for the workshop.

Women matter

The non-formal education on embroidery has gained them the confidence and unity they have long desired. More important still, they are now able to socialize and learn from each other.

The first project the women yielded from their embroidery workshop was the school uniform for the children of Barangay New Panay.

Families who are hard-up and could barely sustain the needs of their children are thankful that they can benefit from the project.

Residents who were earlier hesitant to take part in the project are now eager to cooperate in community development processes.

Women in New Panay feel fulfilled that through their distinct involvement, they are able to inspire children in their community to attend school and chase their dreams.

Now that they have finally gained a significant role in the community, the women of New Panay continue to soar, their voices making a point and reverberating.

“We can change for the better and improve our community because we have learned to make our voices be heard and put our acts together.” (DSWD)