Like their counterparts in urban settings, rural women are key drivers to their community’s progress and development.
“They account for a substantial proportion of the agricultural labor force…and perform the bulk of unpaid care and domestic work within families and households in rural areas,” said un.org. “They make significant contributions to agricultural production, food security and nutrition, land and natural resource management, and building climate resilience.”
On International Day of Rural Women this October 15, get to know about the Filipinas behind three rural groups and the valuable work they do to improve the lives of their families and ensure the preservation of their community’s traditions and natural resources.
Women Weavers in Eastern Samar
When Super Typhoon Yolanda wreaked havoc on Samar and Leyte in November 2013, one of the world’s worst cyclones left scores of Filipinos homeless, financially displaced, and dead.
Stepping up to help their families rise from the devastation were hundreds of women weavers from the first-class municipality of Basey, Samar. Drawing on their humble weaving skills, they use the reed tikog to weave mats that are either sold as material to fashion houses or turned into accessories like bags or slippers.
Weaving is a morning-to-evening affair, squeezed in between cooking for their families and caring for their kids. The women work inside Saob cave, whose cool temperature keeps the tikog in top condition. (Read: The Ifugao Weave Face Masks You Didn’t Know You Needed)
International NGOs like Care Philippines, along with organizations like the Basey Association for Native Industry Growth (BANIG), Palaypay Weavers Association, the Department of Trade and Industry, and the Basey local government have helped these hardworking women weavers polish their skills, standardize their products, and get a better price for their painstaking handiwork.
“Our vision is to penetrate the international market as well,” says Anita Ogrimen, head of BANIG, in a 2015 feature. “Though for most weavers it is too ambitious, I told them that nothing is impossible if we all work hard for it.”
Women Farmers in South Cotabato
Farming has always been thought of as a man’s job, but in Barangay Luhib, Lake Sebu, South Cotabato, 49-year-old Juanita Celiz, 65-year-old Candelaria Dumale, and 52-year-old Merlinda Go have long been planting vegetables in their respective home gardens both for personal consumption and profit.
“Sarili mong tanim, alam mong safe kainin,” said Merlinda in a feature story.
The three friends learned about natural and pesticide-free farming when they attended a seminar on proper nutrition organized by an NGO in their barangay. Further training came through the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) project “Dynamic Conservation and Sustainable Use of Agrodiversity in Traditional Agroecosystems of the Philippines.” (Read: New ‘Table-To-Farm’ Project Helps Aetas in Zambales Grow Their Own Food)
Now heads of the all-women group Lake Sebu Indigenous Women and Farmers Association (LASIWFA), Juanita, Candelaria, and Merlinda are focused on creating business opportunities for the produce they grow. Through the provincial local government of South Cotabato and the Provincial Planning and Development Office, LASIWFA acquired a dehydrator to process locally grown crops into various food products like chili, mushroom, and ube powders, candied fruits, and vegetable-based ketchups. The trio and fellow farmer Jelly Suriaga also pooled their resources together to purchase land for the dehydrator and a processing facility.
On March 3, 2020, the processing center was officially turned over to LASIWFA by Governor Reynaldo S. Tamayo Jr. The group has also managed to acquire P2 million for five barangay-based processing centers, and two dehydrators.
Women Fish Warden in Camarines Norte
To her family, Susan Pasacay Aceron is a dedicated mother and wife. But to her community in Barangay Caringo, Mercedes, Camarines Norte, she is head of Samahan ng mga Kababaihan sa Caringo, a group of women committed to the conservation, protection, and sustainability of their coastal resources.
These deputized women fish warden are responsible for the decreasing number of illegal fishers, thanks to their routine patrolling of sea-borne operations in their community-based fish and coral sanctuary. (Read: Apo Reef’s Endangered Sea Turtles Increase in Numbers During Lockdown)
For her part, Susan visits homes and schools to create awareness on the fish sanctuary’s importance and the ill effects of dynamite fishing. She also distributes vegetable seeds and medicines to the townsfolk.
In 2012, Susan placed second in the Search for Outstanding Rural Women in the Philippines. It’s a much-deserved award for a lady who volunteers her time and effort to looking after Caringo Island’s white-sand beaches and the marine life in its crystal-clear waters.