‘Project Stitch’ mends livesBy Tina G. Santos
Philippine Daily Inquirer
“Project Stitch” has finally found its niche.
The livelihood program for women in Metro Manila’s poor communities which was launched by Ecumenical Institute for Labor Education and Research (Eiler), a nongovernment organization, has been named one of the nine finalists in Project Inspire’s “5 Minutes to Change the World.”
An annual initiative sponsored by the UN Women’s National Committee Singapore and MasterCard, Project Inspire lets young people from all over the world share their life-changing ideas and fulfill their vision of a better world for disadvantaged women and children in the Asia/Pacific region, Middle East and Africa.
Dozens of countries submitted entries in the form of a five-minute video or a written pitch posted online.
Last year, the grand prize in the search for innovative ideas on female empowerment and social change was won by another Filipino project, “Hapinoy,” which helped link up women variety store owners in Southern Luzon to a unified retail network.
“We do hope another Philippine project will win again in the competition,” said Soleil Erika Manzano, a staff member of Eiler who entered the project in the competition together with Marian Santos and Jose Maningat.
“We are very happy with the inclusion of Project Stitch in the list of finalists. By making it to the finals, we have already contributed to raising awareness on the plight of Filipino garment workers who carry the burden of raising their families amid limited economic opportunities,” Manzano said.
The finalists will pitch their idea live to an esteemed panel of international judges during the grand finals to be held in Singapore on Aug. 31.
Manzano, meanwhile, urged Filipinos to help them win by voting for Project Stitch in Project Inspire’s Facebook account.
This year’s grand prize winner will win a $25,000 grant while a People’s Choice Award will be given to the project with the most online votes.
According to Manzano, Project Stitch aims to aid Filipino women workers who lost their jobs with the closure of several garment factories by organizing them into cooperatives and equipping them with entrepreneurial skills.
It also calls for knowledge and skills sharing among the beneficiaries through the conduct of training and workshops, providing them with seed capital as well as helping them market their products.
“These training and workshops will be facilitated by the former garment workers who were previously displaced from their work and now also run their women workers’ cooperatives. Experts in skills training and financial management will also be invited to conduct the training and workshops to [let them] share their expertise and facilitate financial counseling among the beneficiaries,” Manzano said.
She added that the beneficiaries would also be the ones to run and operate their cooperatives.
“They will be the ones in charge of administering the cooperative, training new members, tapping and expanding their networks and marketing and selling their products. Eiler will guide and assist the women beneficiaries during the early phase of putting up the cooperatives such as planning, training and workshops, networking and marketing,” she said.
“Earnings and profits of the cooperative will be divided among its members as their salaries and dividends. The women beneficiaries will [receive a] salary for their work and after a year, [they] can have their share of the cooperative’s dividends,” Manzano explained.
She said that she, Santos and Maningat got their inspiration for the project from the Filipino women workers who struggle to make a living and at the same time, care for their families.
“Poverty in the Philippines is [prevalent] and jobs are insufficient. Every day, we see women vendors on the street, toiling [under] the heat of the sun and women blue-collar job workers [getting a brow-beating]. Despite the meager pay, they find the strength to wake up the next day, tend to their families and go to work. Seeing these women makes us realize how lucky we are and how they are the true epitome of perseverance, strength and power—the unsung heroes of our society,” the team said in an interview posted on Project Inspire’s website.