Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, once said, “...that whenever you want things said, give it to a man, and when you want things done, give it to a woman.” The women of Magbinuligon Bayanihan Association – Women in Development Association (MBA-WIDA) formerly the Opong MPC are proof that women can indeed bring change and make things happen.
Formed from the defunct Opong Multi-Purpose Cooperative, the MBA was organized with the help of the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) in 2009. DAR Agrarian Reform Program Officer Ma. Milagrosa Noveda spearheaded the reorganization effort of what is now the MBA.
“At present, the cooperative has 379 members, 197 of which are females and 182 are males. It is a federation or network organization, with WIDA as its affiliate member,” said Noveda.
The organization has a one-hectare communal farm planted to high yielding vegetable varieties, in addition to a less than a hectare tilapia fish pond. It is also engaged in rice production.
But the women of MBA-WIDA, have walked the extra mile. They may look comely, shy and pretty; but mind you, some of them are certified welders with NC II certificates from the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA). Some have also received training in carpentry and masonry, and gentlemen, take a bow, these ladies constructed their warehouse from scratch.
“These women built their warehouse, and it was a sight to see them holding carpentry tools and doing construction work. Welding, carpentry and masonry, are traditionally the men’s turf. It is not every day that we find women in a rural community break the gender barriers. But the women of MBA-WIDA have proven they could make a difference,” Noveda said.
Onslaught of typhoon Yolanda
In a rural community, the traditional occupational roles are very much emphasized between sexes. However, things were to change when super typhoon Yolanda came. It brought change at a rapid pace.
Several international non-government organizations, private agencies and donors, and government agencies poured assistance to calamity-stricken areas, of Leyte, Tolosa, included.
There was also a serious shortage of skilled labor particularly for carpenters, masons, plumbers, electricians and the like. Soon, government agencies and civic-minded organizations started training those interested in these skilled occupations that were in short supply. These trainings included both men and women, and the members of MBA-WIDA. Together, they were a force in the rehabilitation and development of their community. After Yolanda, it opened several opportunities for livelihood and entrepreneurship.
But they did not stop there. The MBA-WIDA were able to access funding worth P2 million from the International Labor Organization (ILO) for the construction of their building with provisions for an office and storage area. It was here that the women used their carpentry, masonry and welding skills to construct the warehouse.
Empowerment through trainings
Yes, there were males who helped them along the way, but this was something new and it signaled a new chapter in the life of empowerment of women in local life.
The MBA-WIDA was a beneficiary of the Partnership Against Hunger and Poverty (PAHP). They have availed of the on-site training provided by the DAR.
Noveda said under the PAHP, the women of the cooperative underwent training on high value vegetable production and organic farming.
Today, in addition to their vegetable production, they are engaged in vermi-cast production, an organic fertilizer derived from African Night Crawler earthworms with technology provided by the DAR.
“They also produce bell peppers, green charcoal briquettes and organic red rice. The red rice has a high demand for the wellness and health conscious market, particularly the diabetics,” said Noveda.
They have diversified their interests: meat processing, and catering business. In line with this, they underwent trainings in food preparation and food handling, table skirting. They have also produced nuggets from vegetables.
Their latest venture is the production of organic dishwashing liquid, which they started marketing in their area.
The MBA-WIDA is an epitome of empowerment, breaking traditional stereotypes. They have also learned to think of their future, access and mobilize resources to succeed their plans. They may have to deal with challenges along the way. But after the storm, they have charted their lives in their hands, and blazed new trails. (John Christopher Colasito)
Photos 1 and 2: The women of Magbinuligon Bayanihan Association-Women in Development Association (MBA-WIDA) say “they can also perform tasks associated with men”.
Photo 3: Some of the members of the MBA-WIDA pose with Municipal Agrarian Reform Program Officer Maritess Nacilla (extreme left).
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