Almaira Batua-an, an advocate of women’s economic empowerment, is the current president of the Kamapiyaan o Pagtao Ago so Ingud Association, an organization composed of women farmers in Dibarusan, Balindong, Lanao Del Sur. Since its establishment in 2015, the group has focused on sakurab (white scallion) cultivation, although occasionally, when there were orders or when sakurab harvest was in abundance, they produced palapa (a spicy M’ranao side dish with sakurab as its main ingredient) to augment the group’s income.
The association started to sell sakurab at Samera Market in Marawi City. However, in 2017 the Marawi Siege took place, causing the market to close down its operations as it was located at the epicenter of the armed clashes. Looking for a new market was challenging to the group as they had to travel to other places to sell their harvest. It was a costly endeavor because of the increasing transportation fare, significantly decreasing their sale and profit.
Furthermore, the destructive presence of pests in their farms and the unpredictable weather generated more operational setbacks. But despite all these problems and challenges, the group persevered and, with grit, continued cultivating sakurab.
“Every time we encounter failure, we start planting again,” Batua-an remarked.
She attributed the group’s tenacity to sustain their livelihood to the unity of the group and the willingness of the members to attend meetings to discuss and resolve issues affecting the organization. The setbacks they experienced motivated them to expand their undertaking to include business on buy and sell of basic commodities like rice.
Batua-an acknowledged with profound gratitude the significant support by Al Mujaadila Women’s Association (AMWA) and Oxfam Pilipinas in particular, she mentioned how the washing facility they received increased their sales.
“It was of great help to us because our clean sakurab attracted more buyers and could also demand better price,” she shared.
“Before, we were shy, but now that we are earning, we developed self-confidence. We now gained the community’s respect to express our suggestions and be part of the decision-making. Our group is also acknowledged and recognized, and now we inspire other sectors to organize their own group,” Batua-an added.
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