In San Francisco, Surigao del Norte, a group of mothers used to box themselves in their homes. These women thought that women’s role is only limited to taking good care of their families and doing household chores.
But this perspective changed when they were introduced to the Sustainable Livelihood Program. Through the program, they gained a new and better perspective on the importance of women in the community.
For the longest time, the housewives and elderly women in Barangay Diaz thought that they were only made to stay at home and ensure that things are in order as husbands are the ones delegated to work and earn for the family.
Many of these women, especially Maribel Guhiting, wanted to do more than being a housewife. She knows deep in her heart that women are capable of anything. She believes that like men, women can also engage in businesses and support the family financially.
This long dream of Maribel became possible when the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) introduced the Sustainable Livelihood Program (SLP). Through the SLP, Maribel and the women residents of Barangay Diaz learned that they can start a livelihood project which they can personally handle. The said livelihood project will also serve as their source of income so that they can help their husbands in supporting their families.
But what was more optimal about this opportunity was that women are given great shots to become leaders in their community. During the process, their skills are honed and their capabilities are emphasized. These women are being empowered.
Hence in 2019, a group of 23 female members and 1 male member took a huge shot and formed the Diaz Rice Traders SLP Association.
Just like any other association mostly handled by women, the Diaz Rice Traders’ SLPA was criticized a lot. The association was told by some people that their livelihood will fail in no time because women didn’t have the ability to engage in such business ventures.
Aside from this, Maribel and her team also struggled during the early months of their operation. Despite the fact that they were able to undergo skills training before the project turnover, they still struggled on how to manage their rice trading project. In addition, competition in the market was also tough.
But instead of backing down, the association worked harder to sustain its project. Eventually, they came around and they were able to learn how to properly handle the project.
To make their project more profitable, the group decided to decrease their rice supply and allot the money to start a small general merchandise store. Aside from that, the SLPA has also decided to venture into micro-lending to extend benefits and income-sharing to the members.
In this way, the group deemed that their project will have more sales and become more sustainable.
“Kinahanglan sa negosyo, friendly pud ka para mubalik sila kay mao ni maghatag sa imo og benta (In business, one needs to be friendly so that the customers will keep coming back and you can have regular sales),” Maribel said.
As of April 2021, the Diaz Rice Traders’ SLPA has a total asset of Php408,526. They have also been able to acquire additional properties from their income.
Members of the SLPA claim that they have been able to do all these things because of their association president- Maribel. In spite of the circumstances they encountered during the early months of their project, Maribel never gave up and encouraged her fellow members to move forward.
When asked how she managed to sustain the group and their project, Maribel said that she made sure that she manifested the values of discipline and hard work to all the members.
“Kung unsay amoa balaod, maoy akong ipatuman. Walay pabor-pabor bisag kinsa pa na, basta nakautang, dapat gyud mubayad ug mutuman sa responsibilidad. Lain pa, ako gyud ginasiguro nga tanan nga among kalihukan nakasulat gyud dapat para makabalo tanang miyembro (I make sure that what is stipulated in our by-laws and policies are being followed. Those who have dues should pay and do their responsibility. Other than this, I also make sure that all our activities and agreements are well-documented),” Maribel shared.
Currently, the Diaz Rice Traders’ SLPA plans to purchase a commercial lot to save the money they allot for monthly rental.
Maribel and her group have a long way to go. But with her leadership and the members’ cooperation, their project will grow and help more people in the future.