Saturday, April 13, 2024

Weaving success: SM’s PGPC empowers women of Tiwi through livelihood

Weaving success: SM’s PGPC empowers women of Tiwi through livelihood

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The SM Groupis a staunch advocate of women empowerment through various programs across its core and portfolio companies whilepromoting sustainable livelihood opportunities among communities and key sectors of society.

United Stakeholders Working to Achieve Growth (USWAG) is composed of women weavers of different ages residing in the Municipality of Tiwi, known as the birthplace of geothermal in Southeast Asia

Philippine Geothermal Production Company, Inc. (PGPC), a part of SM’s portfolio investments, has been enabling communities in Tiwi, Albay since the 1970s when it started geothermal development in this area through its predecessor, Philippine Geothermal, Inc. Among its many programs is empowering Tiwi women weavers who are known for their skills in crafting abaca products and ceramics.

Ate Pearl, who is known in Barangay Lourdes and among USWAG members, formed a women’s group in 2006 composed of elderly, housewives, and mothers wanting to have extra income for their families but were challenged by the lack ofcapital to jumpstart any initiative.

PGPC, seeing these women needed support, provided resourcesin partnership with DTI Albay Province, including training on threading abaca fiber, product development, and budgeting. These women eventually formed a group called United Stakeholders Working to Achieve Growth or USWAG, an aptname which stems from the local word ‘uswag’ which means ‘to progress’.

“PGPC is very supportive of community initiatives that aim to equip local community members with skills and resources toward building their livelihood,” said Mr. Napoleon “Nap” Saporsantos, Jr., President of PGPC.

Ate Pearl reminisced how they started with abaca fibers as their first and only product. In local terms, the act of weaving those fibers is called “tinagak-tagak” or connecting the threads to make the abaca fibers. But a single product earned so little for the women of USWAG back then.

Thanks to the collaboration of the Tiwi local government unit, the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), Department ofLabor and Employment, NGO ASCODE Foundation and PGPC, these women were able to attend trainings on how to improve their product.  They were also even able to create new designs with the help of the DTI.

Today, the additional income generating activity done in the confines of Tiwi’s scenic border has now reached a wider audience through various trade fairs such as those hosted by premiere malls in Metro Manila.  Aside from abaca fibers, the group is now producing other crafts such as table runners, organizers, festive decorations, placemats and shoals.  USWAG continues to ensure that all their products are generating zero waste. For instance, shreds of abaca fibers from other products are made into sinamay bags.

The original 40 to 60 active members of USWAG have lessened through time as their lives improved one by one. And so, Ate Pearl and the other remaining USWAG members are keeping their doors open for women who are also looking for means to provide for their family and hopefully experience the same success like the former USWAG members.  

PGPC, with its continued commitment to help improve the lives of its host communities through capacity-building, upskillingand other initiatives, has now assisted over 18 organizationbeneficiaries since early 2000.