Busy with cross-stitch work, a group of mothers in their early twenties to late thirties engage in hush-hush talk about problems of family life and how they are coping with it. In the background, cries of babies being given nutrition care by visiting health workers distract the attention of mothers. Now and then, they cannot help but give a hand in pacifying the fretful children. Such is the scene of a typical day at the Children’s Clinic of Kasipagan, an association of mothers’ clubs in San Carlos City, Negros Occidental (Philippines).
For many women from these communities in once was land of sugar plantations, it means doing livelihood work while taking care of their little ones. Thanks to the leadership of June Villarante, the prime mover of Kasipagan, this has been made possible. Making the most of the time at home while attending to their young ones, mothers can produce something for which a market need can be identified. All it takes is the production skill to start with, and the support services to see the products through to its buyers. The latter is what June does as business manager and marketing agent of Kasipagan for the mothers/producers.
In the 1980s, sugar prices collapsed worldwide and spelled disaster for the sugar-producing provinces of Negros. Families were badly affected as the fathers/breadwinners soon found themselves without any incomes. Some of the unemployed men were able to eke out a living ferrying passengers in pedicabs, but the daily income was not enough for their families. Oftentimes, to augment the family income, the wives took jobs as laundrywomen, househelpers or caregivers in more affluent neighborhoods in the community. But such work took its toll as it kept the mothers away from their children who soon became malnourished, even sickly.
Desperate, various women’s groups or mother’s clubs banded together and sought help for their malnourished children. Thus, the San Carlos Children’s Clinic was established to give venue for extending much needed health care and nutrition supervision to children in these communities.
Someone suggested that some skills training be given to mothers who frequented the clinic. Since it had been established that the major cause of malnutrition in the communities was poverty, it was hoped that the mothers can gain from learning new skills, such as embroidery, and use this new skill to augment their families’ incomes.
“The Clinic has fully rehabilitated around 1,000 malnourished children to date. Of the mothers who went through the skills training on hand embroidery, 300 became the core producers of Kasipagan. Most of the products we make find demand from overseas buyers. It merely shows how competitive our cross-stitched products have become. For the women who broke into entrepreneurship, this means a lot, in terms of self-worth and confidence to face the future,” June Villarante reported.