A violence-free community to protect and empower women in the suburbs of Manila

A community program in the suburbs of Manila, Philippines, is striving to create a safe and empowering environment for women and girls, free from violence and abuse. This initiative involves approximately 310 people from the slums of Paco Manila. The program’s main objectives include training, education, and strengthening of the community to effectively reduce and combat violence and abuses, particularly targeting women and girls. This is achieved through prevention, awareness campaigns, social protection activities, and providing access to livelihood opportunities. 

A significant proportion of the women participating in the program face economic insecurity and poverty due to the ongoing crisis in the country. As a result, they find themselves without any stable source of income, making them extremely vulnerable to various forms of violence. To address this critical issue and promote their economic independence, the program has offered 80 women seed money amounting to 3750 pesos (approximately USD 68) along with relevant training to initiate their own small businesses. 

On the surface, this grant may seem small and insignificant, but the impact it has created is beyond quantitative measurement,” reported Onalie, GSIF Asia Pacific Regional Manager, who had the opportunity to meet some of the women and listen to their stories. She shared how the intervention had tangible and far-reaching effects on the lives of these women, going beyond the mere numbers present in the reports. 

The living conditions in the slums of Paco Manila are harsh, with an average of five family members squeezed into a confined space of 20-25 square feet. Many of these women struggle to make ends meet as daily wage earners, striving to fulfil their basic needs. 

Teodora, a 59-year-old woman, was living under extremely difficult circumstances. “Before I received this grant, I was sleeping at home. I was dependent on my husband and children. Today, I work 24/7, rain or shine. My stall is open with food, and I sell all my items every day! I am now able to support myself and my family,” she said confidently and modestly, illustrating the positive impact of the program on her life. 

Marissa, aged 54, had been grappling with a gambling addiction for 35 years since she was 18. After receiving the grant and attending skills training, she made a complete turnaround in her life. She shared, “When I gambled, I became poorer and poorer, and I had no way out until I received this money to start my own business. I also got many trainings, so I learned how to start a business and manage my finances very well. My life completely changed.” 

Amy, also 54 years old and a mother of two young college boys, had been entirely dependent on her husband’s income throughout her life. However, after her husband’s passing, she received training in business and financial management, which empowered her to establish a buying and selling business. She recounted, “I never knew how to manage the money my husband gave me. But after receiving training in business and financial management, I learned how to manage finances at home as well. I now own a buying and selling business, and I’m able to support my two sons’ college education even though I lost my husband.” 

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