Turning Poverty into Empowerment

In the eyes of a hungry child waiting for his jobless mother to bring some food to their shabby little home on the outskirts of the slum, poverty has no mask. 

Poverty in the Philippines is a reality that has challenged many Filipino families, and created a cycle of taking serious risks amongst those whose only solution is to hold onto the knife’s edge for survival. 

The newly developed high rise buildings in the cities have not hidden the visually appalling situation of poor communities who are living on incomes under the minimum wage. Poverty leaves many families homeless; some creative enough to make homes out of recycled materials from the mountain of garbage. While other people enjoy a fancy life, many Filipinos are aching with hunger and desperation. Social experts argue that poverty in the Philippines is a result of inequality of jobs, weak governance and low economy.

Many poor communities are not able to realise the promise of social safety nets, health benefits, and educational assistance of the government, which further contributes to the growing poverty level. 

However, in contrast, many Filipinos believe that being poor isn’t being powerless. Philippines has always been one of the happiest places on earth despite being visited by at least 20 storms a year . The poverty cycle brings out the fighting spirit and the bayanihan (unity) spirit of the Filipino people, and brings them closer to God as they need to cling to his divine provision and protection. 

Despite the sad reality facing many poor people, they’re hopeful that even the new Government will bring genuine change to their situations and finally their tired voices will be heard. 

The bigger picture tells us not to focus on the problem, but rather help find ways to solve the prevailing problem. The question should be: what we can do to help our brothers and sisters be alleviated from their extreme suffering? It not just about how we help them out of poverty, it’s how we can help them make a sustainable life. The United Nations has affirmed that rural women are the backbone of sustainable livelihoods and that they provide food security for their families and communities. Many Filipino women are passionate about getting a job and providing for their families, even if it means that they have to leave home and work abroad. 

To combat poverty, empowerment is key. We empower our women to take part of new initiatives. Spirited clothes was born out of a vision to help women in challenging situations. We started to establish training centres where women from the poorest communities can be trained to sew and then offered jobs, being paid fair wages to make clothes for the international and local market. This empowerment initiative will then help the communities with programs to educate children, and fund other community projects. We are excited to be in the process of starting to fulfil this vision and next month we see our first trainees being trained in our sewing centre in Lapu-Lapu city, Cebu. 

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