SAM_2805 Great Women Brand Photo 102Providing jobs for marginalized Filipino women while producing quality products is the main attraction for supporting the Great Women brand.  So what is The Great Women Project? The Gender Responsive Economic Actions for the Transformation of Women (GREAT Women) Project is a governance and capacity development project that aims to promote and support a gender-responsive enabling environment for women’s economic empowerment, particularly those in micro enterprises.    This project with the support of  ECHOsi Foundation (Enabling Communities with Hope and Opportunities Sustainable Initiatives) sought for women-produced community products and upgraded them with the technical assistance of product and design experts from GREAT Women.  The program enables women micro-entrepreneurs to create, upgrade, and sell products that continually profit and can be permanently traded.  Today, products of women micro-entrepreneurs once sold only as generic products in communities have “leveled up”  producing goods worthy of International consumption and thus,sustaining a profitable livelihood for the women.

The ECHOsi Foundation is a non-profit, social enterprise organization that upgrades and promotes products of local enterprise groups, women micro-enterprise groups and cultural communities.  The ECHOsi Foundation grew out of the need of ECHOstore Sustainable Lifestyle, the pioneering green retail store, to organize the developmental efforts which the founders, Chit Juan, Jeannie Javelosa, and Reena Francisco were doing all over the country since 2009.

Below are some of the stories of the  women micro-entrepreneurs participating in the Intensive Design Clinic series.

Indigenous woman weaver

Vivencia Mamites

Vivencia Mamites

Indigenous tribeswoman Vivencia Mamites, 38 years old, is one of only five women handed down with the knowledge and techniques of making inabal, a traditional cloth of the Bagobo-Tagabawa tribe. She learned inabal weaving from Salinta Monon, a national artist by the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) awarded for her legendary weaves of traditional Bagobo textiles.

At present, Vivencia recreates the 11 inabal woven designs handed down by her grandmother, Lingnan Manuel, whose designs were usually interpretations of the skyscape. Inabal was traditionally used as the garment weave for ancestral royalty, and worn traditionally for the tribal day of the Managa when the datu would seek inabal woven costumes for the town parade.

Vivencia’s weaves lack new buyers and she only gets little income from weaving. She had long held to hopes that her inabal would find potential buyers in trade seminars and fairs.

Vivencia’s participation in the Intensive Design Clinics Series in August and November 2012 led designers to discover her woven creations. Designer Len Cabili of Filip & Inna, a designer brand catering to an “trunk show” and oline export market has agreed to make an inabal collection for the GREAT Women brand launch.  The order for inabal weaves will bring in business opportunities to Vivencia and traditional inabal weavers in Bagobo.  Vivencia is grateful that the GREAT Women Project and ECHOsi Foundation have helped her improve the quality of inabal weaves and the chance for inabal weaves to reach the national and international markets.

Producer of cassava chips

Emelia Galia

Emelia Galia

Another story, Emelia Galia, 43 years old, is a woman micro-entrepreneur who leads a group of ten cassava chips makers, known as the Bubon Food Processors Food Association in Baybay Leyte. Her participation in the Intensive Design Clinic Series, allowed her to develop new variants for cassava chips or cabcab.  Cassava chips were reformulated to new flavors such as malunggay, munggo, sweet and sour. These new variants were sold out in an instant when market-tested in the Bahandi Regional Trade Fair in Manila last November 2012.

Before the Intensive Design Clinic Series, Emelia Galia saw that women micro-entrepreneurs in her group found it hard to sustain their food association. “Unless these women are paid on hand, no one stays working for the association really, ” Galia states as a matter of fact. But with the Intensive Design Clinic Series, Galia became encouraged that their cabcab food business “could become big”.

I continue to encourage them that the business could grow, while we have access to different ideas, variants, and most importantly new markets through GREAT Women Project interventions.”


Weaving trainer of women

Ludivina Boston

Ludivina Boston

Ludivina Boston, 65 years old, is a weaver from Midsayap in North Cotabato. She worked in a home-weaving business since the 1970s, and was able to train six other women on handloom weaving at the Rural Improvement Club in Midsayap. For a time, she opted to take a sewing job in Manila, and temporarily shelve plans of being a self-made entrepreneur.

“I had no plans of going back to Cotabato, if not for the GREAT Women Project”, Ludi Boston recalled. But participating in the GREAT Women Project-sponsored Intensive Design Clinic from the local area coordinator in January, she is willing to try once more in reviving women loomweavers belonging to the Rural Improvement Club of Midsayap and later re-settling in Midsayap.  She found that the women weavers she trained discontinued weaving because of experiencing financing difficulties, while their looms were either sold or dismantled.”

“But I am not giving up. Through this project, I know I can help women from our town to be more productive. Encouraging women to work will succeed if you let them see that markets exist and that you have the capital to pay for the price of their labor,” Ludi shares her learning from the GREAT Women Project capacity development initiatives.

Vivencia, Ludi and Emelia are just three among many other women who became revitalized entrepreneurs and women leaders, through the partnership of GREAT Women Project and ECHOsi Foundation.  Selected and upscaled women’s products will be introduced in an invitational GREAT Women Brand Launch scheduled on March 19, 2013 at the Yuchengco Museum at the RCBC Plaza, Makati City.