Women of Marawi 1

Making ends meet is a great challenge for residents of Marawi City but these women are doing everything just to stay afloat and keep their family alive.

Sewing was their regular source of livelihood, but all of a sudden, it came to an abrupt end. On May 23, 2017, thousands of families were displaced by the war and scores of families had to flee to ensure their families’ safety.

But as they say, there’s a light at the end of the tunnel.

To hasten the recovery and rehabilitation of Marawi City, the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), which leads the Bangon Marawi Task Force Sub-committee on Business and Livelihood, provided these with sewing machines and cloth as starter kits to help them earn while staying either homebased or at evacuation centers.

Back in August, DTI-Region 10 identified 16 women internally displaced persons (IDPs) who will be trained for dressmaking and were awarded with the sewing kits. The 16 sewers are able to generate income for themselves.

From the Sta Elena Gymnasium, where they temporarily stay, the 16 women sewers go to the Provincial Training and Livelihood Development Center in Iligan City, where every sewer can earn at least P500 after a day’s work.

For Asnia Sandiman, 23, laying hands on a high-speed sewing machine was a dream come true. Even as a kid, Asnia has been sewing handwoven tube skirts or malong in Filipino, shoals, and long dresses to earn extra for her schooling and for her family.

Women of Marawi 2

But with the new sewing machines and cloth provided by DTI, Asnia can earn up to P1,300. At school, her classmates also ask her to sew for them, allowing her to earn even more.

To Asnia, the new sewing kits was her new lease on life amid the crisis that she and her family are going through.

“Naappreciate namin at sobrang masaya kami. Parang nabigyan kami ng panibagong buhay,” a teary-eyed Asnia said, while recalling the time when the terrorists where banging on their door.

“Malaking tulong sa amin ito,” she added.

On the other hand, the DTI’s Negosyo Center and PTLDC ensure that the handwoven malongs, shoals, and long dresses made by the IDP sewers go to the market. Indeed the products ended up in the right market with orders coming in from SM Cagayan de Oro, Manila, the Bangon Marawi Concert, Bangon Marawi Store at DTI main office in Makati City. There are also orders from Rustan’s for the Go Lokal! Project.

Fellow IDP and 36-year-old Memeng Dianal, said the sewing kits allowed her to feed her six children everyday. From P500 she earns before, now, Memeng earns P2,000 a day, finishing at least 20 handwoven malongs, shoals, and long dresses.

“Malaking tulong ito sa amin [sewing kits] kahit kaunti-konti natutustusan namin yung araw-araw na pangangailangan namin,” Memeng said.

Women of Marawi 3

Despite knowing that her family’s home in ground-zero is now levelled due to the conflict, Memeng is hopeful that once they return to Marawi, there will be more opportunities for her and other Marawi residents. If only she can handle two businesses, she would do it for her children.

“Kung pwedeng doblehin ang business, magdodoble kayod ako para sa mga anak ko,” she said.

Now with the fighting officially declared over by the government, Asnia and Memeng, together with other residents of Marawi will just have to wait for their return to their hometown.

After all, hope springs eternal.