Ten women waste workers receive grants on International Women’s Month

Women waste workers formally accept their new equipment and financial grants to boost their businesses.

Ten women waste workers from the Cities of Pasig, Quezon and Manila celebrated International Women's Month with new equipment and financial grants to enhance their waste management businesses.

WWF-Philippines hosted a turnover ceremony at the University of the Philippines Bahay ng Alumni in Diliman, Quezon City on March 8, Wednesday, which was also International Women's Day. The women grantees received their new equipment – side cars, cleaning tools, and safety gear – and signed an agreement, accepting their grants.

One of the grantees was 46-year-old Rosabelle Obusan from Pasig City. Rosabelle has been collecting and selling garbage since she was young. She had always dreamed of having her own junk shop, but lacked the seed money to do so.

"Kaya ngayon makakakuha na ako ng business permit, tsaka mayor's permit, kaya matutuloy ko na 'yung pangarap ko. Ito na nga 'yung hinihintay ko na ang tagal na pagkakataon. Mauumpisahan ko na," Rosabelle says.

[Translation: Now I can finally get a business permit and a mayor's permit to fulfill my dream. I have been waiting for this opportunity for a long time. I can finally start my business.]

Rosabelle Obusan receives a side car full of cleaning tools and safety gear as well as new signs for the junk shop she plans to open.

The other grantees were May Mabunga, Marissa Gorpido, Michelle Glor, Marife Cabe, Joan Diaz, Rose Anne Salinas, Analyn Gerong, Kuh Restubog, and Margarita Bartolo.

The equipment and grants are part of the Women in Waste Economic Empowerment (WWEE) program of the Clean Cities, Blue Ocean (CCBO) initiative under the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). This is in partnership with WWF-Philippines and the Coca-Cola Foundation Philippines, Inc. (CCFPI) as well as the Associated Resources for Management and Development, Inc. (ARMDEV) and the EcoWaste Coalition's Basic Business Empowerment Skills Training (BBEST) that is also funded by CCBO.

"Nakakabilib na ang mga kababaihan ang kasama natin sa pag-ambag sa kalinisan ng ating komunidad. Isang pribilehiyo po para sa amin na makatulong sa inyo at sa inyong pamilya para sa ating misyon na isang mundong maayos at walang nasasayang," said Cecile Alcantara — Coca-Cola Foundation Philippines President — addressing the women waste workers.

[Translation: It is impressive that women are part of our work to clean communities. It is our privilege to assist you and your families in our mission to achieve a world without waste.]

Prior to receiving the grants, the women underwent empowerment training under BBEST and participated in a mentorship and pitching session to a panel. The grantees were selected based on the clarity, impact, and feasibility of their business idea, and the drive of the women to implement the business model.

Apart from the formal turnover, one of the highlights of the event was a sharing or chikahan session among the new grantees, with some new BBEST training graduates and other women waste workers who had received their grants a few months earlier. The women entrepreneurs shared their experiences, answered questions from the group and also offered inspiring messages to motivate the new graduates to continue pursuing their ambitions for their businesses despite the challenges.

Previous grrantees share their story of how they trained to be entrepreneurs under the WWEE project and what life has been like since receiving their grants.

Analiza Maglasang, 48, was one of the grantees from November who shared her story. At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, Analiza had to shut down her junk shop and put her plans on hold. When she attended the BBEST training last year, she found the confidence from learning new skills to restart her business.

"Ang isang natutunan ko, mangarap lang ulit," she says. "Kasi sabi ko pwede kahit hindi na ako maghanapbuhay. Antayin ko na lang sahod ng asawa ko…Nang naka-attend ako nang seminar parang naliwanagan ako ulit."

[Translation: One of the lessons I learned is to dream again. Because I used to think that I didn't need to work anymore. I'll just wait for my husband's salary…When I attended the seminar I was enlightened.]

May Mabunga, 29, from Pasig City is a door-to-door waste collector and one of the new grantees who also spoke during the session. She shared how she overcame her shyness and learned to be more outspoken during her empowerment training.

"Kahit hindi ka marunong magsulat, magbasa…'Yung hindi marunong magbasa mapaghihinaan kayo ng loob. Kasi ako mahina talaga 'yung loob ko. Katulad ngayon, mahina ang loob ko, pero nasaan ngayon ako?"

[Translation: Even if you don't know how to write or read…When you don't know how to read, you often feel weak-hearted. I also often feel weak-hearted until now, but look how far I've come?]

A recent WWF study found that women bear a disproportionate burden when it comes to managing plastic use and waste when compared to men. WWF-Philippines is pushing for gender-inclusive solid waste management systems in homes and communities.

The WWEE partnership is in line with WWF-Philippines' advocacy to empower women in the waste management sector under its No Plastics in Nature (NPIN) initiative that seeks to stop the flow of plastic waste in nature by 2030.

"WWF believes in empowering the waste sector as we see it important in the plastic value chain. Our studies showed that the informal waste sector mainly contributes to the estimated 9% plastic recycling rate of the country but is not provided with the support they need. Through WWEE, together with our partners, we recognize their contribution and work on supporting them in making their dream businesses a reality," says Czarina Constantino - Panopio NPIN Program Manager.

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