Some 752 female Overseas Filipino Worker-returnees and repatriates have proven that life in the Philippines could be better after spending much of it working in another country.

This was the gist of the report of Director Violeta Munoz of the newly-created National Reintegration Center for OFWs, or NRCO, to Labor and Employment Secretary Rosalinda Dimapilis-Baldoz showing that 752 female OFWs have started their own livelihood enterprises in 2013 after receiving training and business starter kits from the NRCO under the Balik Pinay, Balik Hanapbuhay Program, one of the components of the National Reintegration Program for OFWs. The NRCO, a DOLE agency, runs the Balik Pinay Balik Hanapbuhay Program.

One of them is Jeny Lyn Osano of Purok Sprin, Bgry. Tinongcop, Tantangan, South Cotabato. After working in the Middle East as a household service worker, Ms. Osano came home in 2010 to try her luck in Hong Kong, but she got sick and came home for good.

Osano inquired about the Balik Pinay, Balik Hanapbuhay Program and received a sewing machine, which she used to sew pillow cases, curtains, mats, and rice-sack bags. From a customer base of only five market stall owners, Osano's clientele had grown to over 24 in Koronadal City, Banga, Surallah, and Isulan. She now earns between P10,000 to P32,000 a month from her business, which has expanded to include pottery-making. Last year, Ms.Osano and her husband bought their first truck, an Isuzu Elf.

Baldoz said beneficiaries no longer need to leave the country to earn for their families after receiving their starter kits from the program. "They can work now in the comfort of their own homes and earn income," she said.

According to the NRCO report, there are 752 stories of transformed lives of female OFW-beneficiaries who also received P10,000 in livelihood assistance and entrepreneurial skills training worth P7.1 million. Region 1 had the most number of program beneficiaries at 250 OFWs, followed by Region 9, which had 152 OFW-beneficiaries, and Regions 3 and 11 which had 150 OFW-beneficiaries each. The fifth region with the highest number of beneficiaries was the Cordillera Administrative Region, at 50 OFWs.

The NRCO said the OFWs who received the assistance are now engaged in various livelihood enterprises, notably, health and wellness service business like reflexology, massage, home spa, and cosmetology.

"Some of them are into production of bath soap, scented oils, herbal medicine, skin/health care products, while others are into handicraft-making, such as souvenir items, fashion jewelry, native slippers, bags, and accessories.

The DOLE established the Balik-Pinay Balik Hanapbuhay Program Administrative Order No. 77 Series of 2011. It is one of the DOLE's income augmentation component of the National Reintegration Program for OFWs that opens economic opportunities through skills training and livelihood starter kits.

It is tailored-fit for OFWs, especially displaced women who, after working abroad, have returned, or were repatriated to the Philippines either due to political crisis in their country of destination, or to employment-related issues and experiences, and wish to set-up, start, and operate a home-based livelihood undertaking.

Made easy to do and to access, the program provides ready-to-roll self-employment package of services consisting of short-gestation training, start-up kits, business counseling, and technical and marketing assistance services.

According to Baldoz, women OFWs, especially domestic helpers, are prone to high risk exploitation, both labor-related and/or physical abuse, and advised them to stay home in the country with their families.

"They can stay in the country and still earn income under program which funded by the NRCO through direct administration or through accredited OFW cooperatives, family circles, and other accredited partners under the supervision of OWWA regional offices in partnership with TESDA and its accredited training institutions," explained Baldoz.

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