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Home » Migrated » Flying the kite: Leadership and micro-entrepreneurship for displaced women in Zamboanga City

Flying the kite: Leadership and micro-entrepreneurship for displaced women in Zamboanga City

Fhatrajay, 36, has three children and is expecting another one. Her husband, a laborer, provides for the family – although not three times a day. Her young family of six sometimes goes on without food for a day or two.

She shares this story with 11.4 million poor Filipino families. Except, her family was displaced by conflict in Zamboanga City and is now temporarily sheltered in an unfamiliar dwelling.

A year and a half since the Zamboanga siege, thousands of families are still cramped in transitional shelters in than ideal conditions. Unemployed mothers like Fhatrajay and their children bear the difficulty the most. With their shelters marred with bullets, transferred to an unfamiliar dwelling and with no income, the likes of Fhatrajay have less to no voice in taking charge of their lives and their families.

Empowering women

If only Fhatrajay understood her worth and her wing unclipped, it would have been a different story to tell.

Answering to this special need of women in post-conflict setting, the Ateneo de Zamboanga University Recovery and Assistance Program (AdZU-RAP), in partnership with I Can Make a Difference, conducted Taghuri: Empowering Women and their Families. The multi-module program aims to capacitate women with leadership and livelihood skills to become self- reliant through sustainable sources of income.

Fhatrajay and 84 other mothers from Mampang Transitory Site, the largest transitory site for internally displaced families in the Zamboanga siege, were handpicked to undergo the training.

EMPOWERMENT THROUGH LEARNING: A badjao woman reads the instructions for developing a plan during the business ideation workshop.

Woman leadership and business

Initial consultation with the partner beneficiaries, government agencies and non-government organizations revealed that financial literacy is needed to strengthen the roles of women in their families. This and other data gathered paved the way to develop a combined framework on women leadership and business development.

EMPOWERING DISPLACED WOMEN: 85 women partners of Taghuri with facilitators from AdZU and I Can Make a Difference

The 85 selected women started with a Women Leadership Retreat on April 28-30 at JMR Conference Hall, Ateneo de Zamboanga University (AdZU). Sessions in the three-day training focused on (1) women as leaders and catalysts for economic growth, (2) discovering strengths, talents and skills in creating proactive change in their families, and (3) women contribution in positive community transformation.

OVERCOMING ETHNIC DIVERSITY: One of the groups of Badjao, Sama and Tausug woman share with one another the challenges in their communities during the women leadership retreat.

Once capacitated as leaders, the women were trained on business development through a four-day Business Ideation Workshop on May 6-9, 2015 at Brebuef Gym, AdZU. The mothers, formed into groups according to common interests, discussed and conceptualized a business proposal under the guidance of business experts and women leaders. Successful business proposals were given seed capital and assigned with a business coach to help grow their micro-enterprise.

Fhatrajay, who usually shies away from social activities, was observably participative and serious in the training.

“I know how to cook and bake, but I never had the chance to develop or make an income out of my skill. With this training, now I can,” says the usually shy mother. She and other mothers had conceptualized to put up a joint carenderia selling Halal food and baked goodies.

A Tausug woman shares to the whole group of women partners her realization as a woman, as a mother and as a leader.

More to be done

But it takes more than just concept to grow the business, says Program Head Alexis Baldia from I Can Make a Difference.

“Our life is compared to a taghuri or kite. The wind where we fly will constantly be changing. Depending on how we fly our kite, we either fail or soar in what we do. And to be able to soar, it takes time and skills to ride the wind of change,” says Baldia.

Baldia emphasized continued mentoring and coaching in the training program, adding that “Taghuri is a process and journey.”

The organizers are currently mobilizing resources to help the women entrepreneurs grow their business. For those who are interested and willing to engage, please be in touch with John Mayo M. Enriquez, AdZU-RAP Coordinator, at the SACSI office (062) 9910871 local 2224/2225. You may also email him at