Economic empowerment: a game changer for abused women in Lanao del Norte

A women’s movement in the municipality of Kauswagan in Lanao del Norte province has stepped up its fight against all forms of violence against women by moving beyond awareness raising and counseling to empowering abused women economically.

The Paglingkawas Women’s Federation, also known as Paglingkawas and PAWFED, is a non-government organization that started as a support group for abused women providing legal assistance, agency referrals, and psychological counseling.

However as more women sought help from the organization, its officers realized that economic dependence was a significant barrier in preventing women from leaving abusive relationships.

“Isa sa hinungdan nganong maabuso sila kay wala silay kaugalingong pangita. Gasalig lang gyud sila sa ilang bana (one of the reasons why they are abused is because they don’t have their own income. They only rely their husbands),” PAWFED President Blenda Desierto said.

She acknowledged that empowering abused women economically is the key step in freeing them from the shackles of domestic violence.

Fast forward two decades, PAWFED has broken down this biggest hindrance and created livelihood opportunities not just for abused women but also for the growing members of the federation.

Representatives from the Department of Labor and Employment explained why PAWFED was selected as an accredited co-partner in the implementation of DOLE livelihood programs in Lanao del Norte. (NEDA-X)

A sturdy bridge between women and gov’t

To realize its goal of transforming women into financially independent and productive members of the community, PAWFED collaborated with government agencies to provide livelihood opportunities.

In 2017, PAWFED received P300,000 assistance from the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE)-10 and started developing the entrepreneurial skills of its beneficiaries and members through a series of skills and livelihood trainings. This was reinforced with the provision of seed capital to enable the women to jumpstart their own businesses.

PAWFED likewise served as a marketing arm of the women entrepreneurs by buying their products and selling them at the PAWFED Consumer Store.

Seeing the successful implementation of its livelihood program, DOLE-10 provided additional funding or the so-called “enhancement assistance” to PAWFED which in turn aided more women entrepreneurs and expanded the PAWFED Consumer Store. Through the said enhancement, the federation was also able to conduct the “Merkado sa PAWFED” project wherein locally-grown and fresh farm produce were sold at cheaper prices.

DOLE Lanao del Norte chose PAWFED because of its advocacy of empowering women and good track record in the implementation of livelihood programs.

Before PAWFED became an accredited co-partner of the Department, the federation used to be a beneficiary of DOLE under its integrated livelihood and emergency employment program.  “Maayo ang ilang paghandle sa sari-sari [consumer] store so nahimo silang partner. Ilang advocacy pud kay getagaan nila og opportunity ang mga babaye na nawad-an na gana sa kinabuhi (they handled the sari-sari [consumer] store well so they became a partner. Their advocacy also gave an opportunity to women who have lost their hope for life),” according to DOLE Lanao del Norte.

Up to this date, PAWFED has maintained its status of being an accredited co-partner of DOLE-10 in the implementation of livelihood programs. PAWFED was even recognized in the prestigious Kabuhayan Awards of DOLE winning 3rd place under the group category of the Best DOLE-Assisted Livelihood Project at the national level.

Paglingkawas Women Federation President Blenda Desierto with Abdul Hasheb Manan of DOLE Lanao del Norte and Provincial Governor Imelda Quibranza-Dimaporo during the distribution of livelihood assistance to 38 qualified beneficiaries of DOLE Integrated Livelihood Program on October 6,2021. (PGLDN)

PAWFED also partnered with the Department of Trade and Industry-10, particularly in providing training to PAWFED members and beneficiaries on product packaging and labeling. The growing federation of women likewise received a vehicle from the Department of Agriculture-10, a timely aid when PAWFED was implementing its rolling store project at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Aside from the national line agencies, PAWFED is also an accredited people’s organization of the Provincial Government of Lanao del Norte. One of its biggest members, the Lanao del Norte Processors Federation manages the Pasalubong/OTOP hub of the province. The said center houses products of local entrepreneurs, mostly PAWFED members, and PAWFED-assisted entrepreneurs.

Reaching far and wide

PAWFED has brought hope not only to 65 members in its head office in Kauswagan town but to 2,000 members all over Lanao del Norte province and five barangays of Iligan City.

Desierto said PAWFED members are mostly concentrated in the towns of Kauswagan Tubod, Linamon, Bacolod, Maigo, Matungao, Kolambugan, Baroy, Lala, and Kapatagan.

Its livelihood projects which primarily target women have expanded over the years and now cater to other vulnerable sectors of society such as PWDs and cultural communities like the Maranao weavers of Poona Piagapo town, also in Lanao del Norte.

Farmers and fisherfolks are also benefiting since most of the raw materials used by PAWFED entrepreneurs are sourced from them. Additionally, the “Merkado sa PAWFED” also served as a venue for the farmers and fisherfolks to sell their fresh produce and harvests.

A member of the ISLAHIYYAH Association from the municipality of Poona Piagapo demonstrated weaving a blanket made from Inaul fabric. The association was one of the groups assisted by the Paglingkawas Women Federation of Lanao del Norte. (PGLDN)

Sustaining the Legacy

Seeing the critical role of the youth in sustaining the legacy and gains achieved by PAWFED, Desierto said they created the Paglingkawas Young Women’s Association and trained the young women to become the next generation of leaders.

“Puhon sila na ang mosunod namo ug magsustain ang maong proyekto, pinaagi sa among mga young women na amo usab ge train sa kung unsa among naagian ug unsa ang among nakat-onan (they are the ones who will follow us and sustain the project, through our young women who we also trained on what we have been through and what we have learned),” she added. (APB/PIA-10)

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