The recent weeks and months have found us all engaging virtually with a new reality that will continue for many into 2021.
We’ve been fortunate through this critical time to have had the opportunity to increase the engagement with our GWLN Sister Societies across the globe and hear about the amazing work being done to help women. Listen to a story of inspiration and hope from one of our leaders who rose through the ranks in her cooperative, Joselite F. Cardona, CEO of Most Holy Rosary Multipurpose Cooperative and the female representative to the board of the National Association of Training Centers for Cooperatives (NATCCO) in the Philippines.
“I’ve been in the cooperative movement for 30 years. When I had just graduated high school, the Most Holy Rosary Cooperative made me the first scholar. That’s why I finished my studies while working toward a Bachelor of Science in Accountancy. I rose from the ranks, from collector, to clerk, to bookkeeper/accountant and secretary to the board—then became a Chief Executive Officer.
I see myself as leader, maybe, because of leading some organizations since I was younger. As a person, I am contemplating my life’s purpose. How can I be of help of those in need? How can I be a channel of grace to others? What can I do to empower people, especially women? Questions that lead me to who and what I am doing today.
“We support women who are least, lost and last in the community.”
In 2017 I started to establish a livelihood program in our cooperative focusing on women’s empowerment. I was triggered with the story of a group of mothers who borrowed a sewing machine, transferring the sewing machine from one house to another for them to work on rags to earn a living. So, we gave sewing machines, remnants of cloth, needles, scissors, thread and other things needed by the women to sew the rags. Some of these women had alcohol issues, weren’t educated and poor. It was a great challenge for us on how to change the mindset of these women so that their dream and our dream for them would not be wasted. So, we met with them weekly, monitoring their quota of 3,000 pieces of round rags per week per individual. We provided financial literacy; identifying needs and wants, budgeting, simple recording, saving, as well as fun activities to keep them engaged during the meetings. Some of the mothers in this program have extended their source of income by having a small retail store, some of them upgraded their sewing not only by making round rags but also making pillowcases, curtains, shorts and other simple clothing items.
We coordinated with the Bureau of Jail & Management and Penology in our municipality and agreed to support them by teaching women in jail how to make perfume. By providing raw materials and assistance with marketing, the jail visitors were the ones purchasing the perfume. This project is also to prepare women upon their release from jail. Most of their cases were related to illegal drugs. With the support of our Cooperative, they have something to earn for a living.
We have also worked with a group of indigenous women who live in the upland community in our municipality. We called them ‘Dumagat Remontados”. They plant grass named tiger grass and rattan palm (yantok) and make it into a sweeper or broom. When we started helping and assisting them in their livelihood, we discovered that they saved their money by putting money under the ground. They didn’t have access to any banks or financial institutions, and no one taught them of the proper way of saving their money. In some cases, they found out that when the time they need to use their money came, it was already torn and moldy. So, we taught them to save their money in our cooperative. I was so amazed that some of them had so much more money deposited in our cooperative. Many of them know why they need to save and for what purpose.”
GWLN is elevating the role of cooperatives around the world and making a difference on a local, national and global level. It is the women and men with their feet on the ground that are tackling the issues confronting society in this turbulent time.
Joselita’s story brings forth the spirit and ethos of the credit union philosophy of people helping people. More importantly, in the case of GWLN, it’s about people empowering women.