The housewives of Sual, Pangasinan: These women know what empowerment is

For one who has lived for over four decades in a laidback barangay, it would have been easy to just be lethargic for the rest of her life.

But Myrna Dulatre can tell that such was not the case for the 24 women members of the Sual Sewers Association.

“Admittedly, in our place, family support was largely the responsibility of the husband. The wife would have to contend with the paltry earning of the husband at the end of the day,” Myrna recalled.

The 46-year-old native of Barangay Baquioen shared that their only source of family income was farming. Baquioen is an outlying area in the municipality of Sual in the province of Pangasinan.

“The opportunities were already present. First, we had basic skills in sewing. Second, we had local and national governments which see both the needs and the strengths of our locality,” Myrna said.

With the aim of empowering them to become partners of the government in development, the local government of Sual partnered with the Nippon Foundation and the Nippon Skilled Volunteers Association (NISVA) to train housewives from the different barangays of Sual on sewing from May 2007 to April 2008.

The trained sewers – among them Myrna – organized themselves into the Sual Sewers Association and availed of a P10,000 interest-free loan from the LGU of Sual for their initial venture of summer hat making. In the first months of project operation, they noted a considerable product demand among farmers, fishermen, tourists and beach goers not only in the town but also in neighboring areas.

“We wanted to expand our products, but we knew it would entail the upgrading of skills and additional capital,” Myrna told.

Again with the help of the LGU of Sual, the association sought the assistance of the Department of Labor and Employment through its Dagupan District Office which used to cater to the whole Pangasinan province until July 2010.

It was in 2008 when the DOLE-RO 1 granted the association P500,000 worth of livelihood assistance for the purchase of 16 sewing machines, raw materials and other tools; while the LGU provided P100,000 for the training costs to be entailed for the skills upgrading of the association members.

The training included topics on Human Relations and Confidence Building, Productivity Enhancement, Occupational Safety and Health, Business Management and lectures on SSS and Philhealth coverage to give them greater access to government social protection schemes.

From the making of summer hats, the group of Myrna has ventured into a bigger project called ‘Miscellany Production’. Now, their products include bags, curtains, pajamas, shorts, aprons, pillows and pillow cases, purses, pouches, table runners, tissue holders, book covers and many others.

“Our markets include Sual, Labrador, Alaminos, tourists and Japanese nationals who frequently visit our locality,” Myrna shared.

She said the LGU provides marketing assistance to the association by giving them a display area at the Sual Public Market for free. Their products are also displayed at the Pangasinan Pasalubong Center in Lingayen, Pangasinan.

Asked about what she gained from being part of the livelihood endeavor, Myrna told: “Bilang babae, masaya sa pakiramdam na katuwang ako ng asawa ko sa paghahanapbuhay at nakakatulong sa pag-unlad ng komunidad.”

Two of Myrna’s children are currently pursuing their college courses, while the youngest is still in grade four.

Myrna is among the 25, 671 marginalized workers in the region who benefitted from the P113,373,802.87 worth of livelihood assistance disbursed by the DOLE-RO 1 since 2008.