To preserve Badjao culture, generate jobs, provide income, and restore self-esteem, Labor and Employment Secretary Rosalinda Dimapilis-Baldoz yesterday instructed the regional coordinating council composed of various DOLE agencies and headed by DOLE Regional Office No. 9 Regional Director Sisinio Cano to work-out a convergence program for the promotion and establishment of tepoh, the Badjao's traditional mat-weaving, into sustainable and environment-friendly enterpises.
Visiting the Extension Services Department of the Western Mindanao State University on R.T. Lim Boulevard in Zamboanga City where 27 Badjao women are undergoing a ten-day training on mat-weaving organized by the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority-Regional Office No. 9, Secretary Baldoz noted that the unique colors and make of the woven mats on display at the training center open an opportunity for the craft to become a job- and income-generating livelihood for indigenous Badjao women, particularly those who were displaced by the September 2013 conflict in the city.
"I see a good future for these mat weavers," said Baldoz, referring to the 27 women, the second batch of trainees, the TESDA and the Department of Social Welfare and Development, in cooperation with WMSU, has organized immediately after the armed conflict was resolved.
"These Badjao women are mostly from Rio Hondo and Cawa-cawa, two of the most-heavily affected areas. They were displaced and have nowhere to go so we are training them to earn a livelihood," said Lorenzo Macapili, TESDA No. 9 Regional Director.
In October, the TESDA trained for 10 days the first batch of 27 Badjao women from the same areas. All in all, the TESDA has spent P100,000 for the training.
"We are now in the planning stage to organize the first batch of trainees as a community-based enterprise," said Director Macapili, who said the DSWD purchased the products of the first batch of mat weavers.
Jumjura Arasain and Liza Ailajun, the two community-based trainors TESDA has contracted to conduct the training, informed Secretary Baldoz during her visit that the craft of mat weaving could flourish if the standard quality of the products is improved. They also informed her that the raw material for thetepoh or mat, which comes from pandan plant, is difficult to obtain.
Thus, Baldoz instructed Director Cano to coordinate with the Department of Agriculture in the formulation of the convergent program so it could provide support to pandan propagation.
"We could encourage the menfolk of the Badjao women, or any one for that matter, to plant pandan so there will be a steady source of pandan leaves.Pandan-planting could be another job-generating enterprise," said Baldoz, who also asked the TESDA to schedule the next training for the Badjao women on product design to improve the product's market access and acceptability.
She also instructed the Bureau of Workers with Special Concerns (BWSC) Director Ahmma Charisma Lobrin-Satumba to include the mat weaving enterprise of the Badjao women in the Gender and Development (GAD) program of the DOLE, which aims to mainstream gender concerns in its policies, programs, and projects.
"The mat weaving project of the Badjao women evacuees is an affirmative action for disadvantaged women to equip them with the necessary skills for livelihood so that they will have sufficient income for their families," said Baldoz.
"But we must be consistent. We must monitor their progress and do proper documentation to show our people the transformation that happens through every DOLE program or project," she finally said.