The women at Palao sa Buto are looking at ways of making their farming community productive while the men are cultivating the fields.
This version of women empowerment is evident in all capacity-building activities conducted by the Mindanao Trust Fund-Reconstruction and Development Project Phase 3 (MTF-RDP/3) when all sectors, including the youth and the elderly, convene.
MTF-RDP/3 is a multi-donor initiative administered by the World Bank. It is implemented by the humanitarian Community and Family Services International (CFSI) and Bangsamoro Development Agency (BDA) to enhance the peace process between the Philippine Government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).
Charima Ulangkaya, 47, a mother of nine, mobilizes women to attend these MTF-RDP/3 events, focused on the socioeconomic development of six major MILF camps.
Making sure that they do not miss any of the events, she always reminds them that this would not only help the community in general, but also their families, who usually rely on agriculture. “Some people, particularly mothers like me would say that this is just a waste of time. That instead of attending these kinds of activities, we might as well take good care of our own homes,” Charima said. “But I convinced them to try and see what benefit this will bring us. Now, these women have found a new and important role in our community.” Although not an officer, Charima actively participates in the discussion of projects recommended by the local people’s organization (PO). She raises questions and responds to whatever concerns are discussed during the community interactions. “One thing that these activities gave me is confidence. I am not afraid anymore to stand in front of people and speak,” she said. “This is what I am trying to build with my fellow women members,” she added.
Charima is a member of Fisher Folks Association based at Barangay Palao sa Buto, Datu Paglas, in Maguindanao, in an area covered by Camp Rajamuda, one of the six MILF camps targeted for rehabilitation under the three-month, $3 million MTF-RDP/3.
CFSI is the trust fund recipient of MTF, which is supported with grants from European Union, Sweden, Australia, Canada, the United States, and New Zealand.
POs are mobilized, encouraged to become more inclusive, formally engaged, trained, and supported to manage MTF-RDP/3 projects.
An agricultural facility that includes a warehouse and solar dryer is under construction at Palao sa Buto. The warehouse will store crops and materials. The solar dryer will be used to dry harvests from 100 hectares of rice fields surrounding the barangay.
Muslima Pendi, 42, said the solar dryer will be of great help to the farmers. Chickens roam the area they use to dry their harvest, which is also flooded during a rainstorm.
The area currently functions as a meeting place and training area of the PO.
The facility will accommodate six sacks of harvested rice while the anticipated solar dryer being constructed can accommodate 10 sacks.
Apart from the structure, the community will be provided with rice mill.
Noraida Abdul, 44, said that they do not have to lease the equipment from other barangays anymore which is costing them much.
Brought forward from the gains of the previous MTF-RDP, the phase three scheduled until the end of March, will be complemented with equipment, goods, and training to encourage and support productivity in the community.
The women of Palao sa Buto are scheduled to venture into bakery and productivity training next month. They have recently attended the operations and maintenance training and project management training. “We usually say this when we have visitors from CFSI and BDA, but allow us to say this once again. Thank you so much for this great help for our families and community,” Charima said. “You gave us not just projects, but also hope and encouragement.”
This article was written with reports from Norbaina Cauring, the Community Development Specialist of CFSI under the Mindanao Trust Fund-Reconstruction and Development Project Phase 3