About nine kilometers north of Marawi City lies the Municipality of Saguiaran, where a group of M’ranao women farmers from different barangays organized themselves and established the Saguiaran Turmeric Organization.
The group is engaged in producing kalawag (turmeric) powder packaged in a recycled plastic bottle and sold mostly in the town of Saguiaran and its neighboring municipalities. The organization members planned to expand their market to Lanao del norte, in particular, Iligan City, but the group lacks the required Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) registration which they are now seriously working on. They are also interested in registering their organization as a Cooperative.
In partnership with the local government of Saguiaran, Al Mujaadila Women’s Association (AMWA) and Oxfam Pilipinas provided the group a grinding machine to support the organization’s livelihood activities.
The group’s partnership with AMWA started in 2016 when student-interns from the class ofan AMWA member arrived in their place to help in the census survey.
This encounter paved the way for Roconsalam Amer, the cluster 1 leader of the Saguiaran Turmeric Association, to know about AMWA and its advocacies.
Consequently, Amer became a regular invited participant to several seminars and trainings organized by AMWA that increased her interest in livelihood activities and ignited her desire to learn more about other women issues.
Inspired and motivated by AMWA’s encouragement and support, Amer and other members of the group attended skill enhancing trainings given by the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA).
The group has its own share of challenges and problems caused by the Marawi siege, COVID -19 pandemic and internal issues, but these never weaken its resolve to succeed.
Despite the setbacks, they continued to operate their turmeric powder production.
The determination to pursue their enterprise generated significant and deep-seated change in the way the members perceived themselves and how they are regarded by their family and the community.
Amer shared that to be economically empowered is to be financially independent. Since she has her own income, she gained the respect of her family and the society. She also revealed that she no longer waits for her husband’s salary to meet the needs of her children. Her earnings from the Turmeric business enabled her to fulfill her duties as a parent and helped her older children to finish their studies. She further shared that with her income she was able to construct a house for her family.
‘’I want to use my story as an example. I am now able to help in solving our family’s financial problem and have the means to support my children,” Amer exclaimed.
WOMEN’S JOURNEY TO ECONOMIC EMPOWERMENT
Al Mujaadila Women’s Association, Inc. (AMWA) is a non-profit and non-government organization composed of women who are committed to promote women’s human rights and condemn practices that violate these rights and acts that demean their worth and status as women.
It is an advocacy-driven organization that continuously engages in activities that include organizing workshops, seminars, and trainings designed to raise the awareness of women about their basic rights and other women’s issues. It has also been involved in community organizing to help develop self-reliant and empowered communities.
For the implementation of its projects and programs, AMWA relies on funding support from national and international agencies and foundations such as: Oxfam Pilipinas, Government of Australia, Government of Canada, The Asia Foundation, Ford Foundation, United States Agency for International Development (USAID), among others.
One of its recent projects funded by the Government of Australia through Oxfam Pilipinas is the Women Empowerment on Leadership and Development (WELD), which includes publishing stories of economically empowered women from its partner communities in different areas of Lanao Del Sur.
The journey of the women whose stories of economic empowerment are featured in this publication is closely monitored by AMWA. The latter has been a constant witness to the progress of the associations these women currently lead – from their faltering beginnings triggered by doubts and uncertainties to their present stable status that is occasionally threatened by issues from within and problems from outside like the Marawi siege in 2017 (2017), the Covid-19 pandemic (2020), and other climate-induced disasters. But in the face of these challenges, they stood firm. Undeterred by the temporary setback, they chose to rise than give up. The courageous disposition they demonstrated in times of crisis is undoubtedly a distinct badge of their commitment and empowerment.
Writer: Atty. Norma A. Maruhom | Co-writer: Dr. Raima S. Dimaampao