Skills Training and Education: Weapon Against Displacement

As the first year of Community and Family Services International’s (CFSI) Zamboanga Recovery Project implementation comes to a close, CFSI is proud to call its livelihood beneficiaries, models of empowerment for the succeeding year. From its project implementation in the past year comes a short story about five armed conflict-affected mothers who utilized skills training and education on enterprise development to improve their quality of life, invest in a sustainable future, and grow as leaders within their families and communities.


16 January 2016, Ceremonial Turnover of the five sewing machines to 5 Sisters by the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) (L-R: Emily, Taiba, Delia, Chief of DOLE, Engr. Wesly Tan, Almalyn, Fe and CFSI Training Specialist, Horace Quicoy, RN.

On the 9th of September 2013, the Zamboanga Siege took place. During the peak of this unforeseen attack, people were abducted, hundreds of houses were burned and thousands of families were fragmented, all this causing individuals to leave their homes and live in evacuation sites for Internally Displaced Persons.
Two years after the siege struck Zamboanga City, it is evident that severely affected populations have not yet fully recovered from the impact of the crisis. Despite the progress made by the affected people, brought about through the support of the Government and the humanitarian sector, there are still thousands of families living in transitory sites. Amongst these individuals are Taiba Daud (43), Fe Cordero (39), Almalyn Iraji (35), Delia Amirol (41), and Emily Abdulsaki (26), all of who are currently residing in Tulungatung Transitory Site. Much like the others living in the evacuation camps, their sources of income were shut down and their children, forced to drop out of school. And while their families managed to survive with the help of food packs and the provision of non-food items, limited access to sustainable livelihood support has hampered the process of their full recovery.

However, events took a huge turnaround. Through the initiative of the International Labour Organization (ILO), in partnership with CFSI, Taiba, Fe, Almalyn, Delia, Emily and 25 other IDPs from Tulungatung Transitory Site were able to build back better as they participated in trainings on Community-Based Enterprise Development (C-BED) and Financial Management for four days. Because the five mothers were grouped as one in all sessions of the C-BED, they each became more acquainted with one another eventually leading to the formation of their group called the “5 Sisters.”
With the presence of CFSI’s Training Specialist and Livelihood Specialist as the lead facilitators, and the Education Specialist as an assistant, participants were able to fully grasp the process of enterprise development, selecting and starting a business, financial management and how the C-BED tool could be integrated with their present livelihoods or with future business proposals from other aid agencies. “Ang C-BED Tool ay makakagabay sa aming pang indibidwal na hanapbuhay” Almalyn Iraji said during the closing part of the training.

The final output of the four-day training was a business proposal per group. Last September 23, 2015 each proposal was showcased during the presentation of C-BED outputs to National Line Agencies, humanitarian partners, MFIs, Civil Society organizations and the Local Government of Zamboanga.
Having an ideal and comprehensive business proposal as a result of the training, the Five Sisters were chosen as representatives of Tulungatung Transitory Site. In front of the heads of various agencies, their business proposal titled “The Five Sisters’ Tailoring Business” was presented and defended by their team leader, Almalyn Iraji. Among the 20 groups from the different transitory sites, Five Sisters’ Tailoring Business was luckily the only proposal picked by the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) to be the beneficiary of five sewing machines, which will help them start their tailoring business.

Aside from providing technical assistance through C-BED, the Zamboanga Recovery Project (ZRP) of CFSI also provided materials such as clothes and equipment to boost the desired business of Five Sisters. Just recently, on January 16, 2016, their long awaited five sewing machines were turned-over by the DOLE. The group has started its business operations and is currently making dresses, pillowcases, curtains and bags. Even with their present experience and skills in tailoring, they still hope to better themselves and learn new designs and methods in the sewing industry. They are proposing a skills enhancement training to be conducted by CFSI in partnership with TESDA.

The CFSI staff stood as witnesses to the memorable turnover of the five sewing machines, realizing that even where hope is seldom mentioned, great stories of empowerment arise. While the story of Five Sisters began with individual mothers who needed to survive a crisis, it develops as a story of a group unified by their goal of sustainability, stability and a better quality of life not just for themselves but for their families as well. In the second year of CFSI’s Zamboanga Recovery Project, the Five Sisters group is looking forward to becoming a People’s Organization.

– Vic Dela Cruz, Zamboanga Recovery Project