Enriching both the heritage of traditional loom-weaving and the lives of rural women of Sabangan, Mountain Province is the founding aspiration of the Sabangan Weavers Association (SaWA), a livelihood interest group (LIG) supported under the Second Cordillera Highland Agricultural Resource Management (CHARM2) Project since 2015.
“We actually started when the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) gave us a training on loom weaving in 2015 before CHARMP2 came to organize us,” said Eleanor Panay, treasurer of the group. Later on, we also received another upgrading training from Hyper Company and shortly after, DTI also provided us with four hand-loom machines and 11 sewing machines under their shared service facility program, she added.
The members could actually start to do business then but they still lack enough capital to buy threads to weave. “Then CHARM2 Project came to assist us. They organized us also in 2015 as an LIG where we are composed of 15 female members and we became a recipient of the livelihood assistance fund (LAF) loan worth of P90,000,” Eleanor narrates.
“When we received our LAF loan, we used it to buy threads and for operational expenses,” said Ranny Dao, the group’s secretary. “We distributed the hand-loom machines to members who are good at weaving. They weave at home since we don’t have space to accommodate all of them,” she said.
Elizabeth Bayongasan, a member of the group said that the barangay offered them the Barangay hall for free but only the sewing machines fit in the space, thus, they agreed to do the weaving at home instead and the sewing of weaving products at the barangay hall where the products are also displayed.
“We distribute the work to our members. Some do the weaving, others do the sewing while the rest do the sales and marketing,” said Eleanor. The group have eventually grew in members, they are now 24 women members working to grow the business.
Members are paid according to their labor. The group provide the thread for the weaving and weavers are paid through ‘labor per yard’ while the sowers who creatively design and craft the finished weaving products are paid through ‘labor per product’, which depends on the size and intricacy of the product design.
Their small earning from their handful work serve as an additional income for their family.
With the groups collective labour of love, they were able to create a growing range of weaving products from wallets, bags, hats, traditional garments to modern weave-accented garments depending on the orders of the customers.
Members market their products through their connections from Baguio and even in Tabuk, Kalinga. They also market it in their locality since many still order traditional garments from them like their ‘lamma’ or ‘tapis’.
The group slowly established their business. In 2016, they were able to pay the LAF loan and thus, it was granted to them in 2017. This year, they just started to officially sell their creative products where they have an initial sale of around P25,000 since January.
“We don’t really have problems on marketing, actually we can’t even accommodate all the orders,” said Eleanor. “Our problem actually is the group lack younger members since we are already having difficulties in sowing because of our aging poor eyes and we have to tend to our farms too,” she said.
GETTING TRAINED AND STARTING ANEW
Some members from Barangay Namatek who are now former members of the SaWA group decided to part their ways. They have worked for quite some time with SaWA and after earning enough training and experience, they decided to start their own weaving business.
Eleanor said it was okay because at least they trained others who could help them accommodate the growing number of orders in the neighbourhood.
EMPOWERED RURAL WOMEN
Indeed, the group of these rural women proved they can do more than household and farm chores. They can even display their artistic skills through their creative work designs and preserve their rich culture and tradition on loom weaving. Not only that, they are able to hone their business prowess making them models of empowered rural women of today. //CBOrcales