Committed to women empowerment. Officials of Coca-Cola Philippines and the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration-National Reintegration Center for OFWs have partnered to help distressed and displaced women OFWs explore economic opportunities when they come home through the WOMEN REACH! program. Photo shows (seated, from left) Lead Convener of WOMEN REACH! and Coca-Cola Philippines Sustainability and Community Affairs Manager Gilda Maquilan, Coca-Cola Philippines Vice-President for Public Affairs and Communications Atty. Adel Tamano, OWWA Deputy Director Josefino Torres, and NRCO Director Jeffrey Cortazar with their respective staff during the MOU signing.
There are 2.2 million Filipinos working in various countries and women comprise 50 percent of these Overseas Filipino Workers. These women OFWs are encouraged to leave their loved ones behind to explore work opportunities and provide for their families’ needs.
A growing demand for caregiving and domestic work abroad has led to a steadily increasing number of women OFWs, with 54 percent of them taking on jobs as domestic help while 18 percent are in the service industry.
However, with the nature of their work, these women OFWs often find themselves in vulnerable situations such as receiving unfair wages and being subjected to deplorable working conditions, violence and abuse. Back home, family members of these OFWs also suffer from their absence, as the separation often leads to estrangement and disintegration.
The Overseas Workers Welfare Administration-National Reintegration Center for OFWs (OWWA-NRCO) and Coca-Cola Philippines recognize this situation and has committed to help mitigate the growing problem of women migration by creating opportunities for women OFWs, especially domestic helpers and caregivers, to venture into income-generating activities locally, such as sari-sari stores, that could facilitate their return and reintegration.
Through a memorandum of understanding, both parties have agreed to help distressed women OFWs explore possible economic opportunities when they come home through the Women Entrepreneurs Reintegrated and Economically Active at Home (WOMEN REACH!) program.
The WOMEN REACH! Program is a partnership between Coca-Cola Philippines, the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA), and the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) and its attached agencies, which seeks to provide women OFWs with entrepreneurship skills training and start-up capital assets upon their return, to encourage them to stay in the country.
It will be piloted in the Philippine Overseas Labor Offices in Kuwait and Singapore. While awaiting repatriation, distressed women OFWs will undergo a business management course which can help them set up any microenterprise when they finally come home.
As part of its commitment, Coca-Cola Philippines will create an entrepreneurship development training module and conduct a training of local and overseas implementers of the training module. It will also refer women OFWs to apply for business loan capital to partner microfinance institutions.
“We believe that this is something that enriches both our organizations. Through our 5by20 Sari-sari Store Training and Access to Resources or STAR Program, we provide something very concrete for the women who we’d like to reintegrate. With OWWA, your expertise, your reach and your scope, we get to reach out to the women who really need this the most,” said Atty. Adel Tamano, Coca-Cola Philippines Vice-President for Public Affairs and Communications.
“We need to provide options for women OFWs to be able to come back and have their own livelihood in the country because the social cost of migration impacts family life. In the course of program development, we came to learn that most of the women who are doing domestic work abroad are also subject to abusive work conditions,” said Gilda Maquilan, Lead Convener of WOMEN REACH! andCoca-Cola Philippines Sustainability and Community Affairs Manager.
For its part, the OWWA-NRCO will profile and identify distressed women OFWs who will enroll in the WOMEN REACH! program, select trainers who will implement the small business management training module in regional offices, and provide livelihood assistance to qualified beneficiaries.
“The main narrative of the push factors of women for going abroad is to provide for their families and send their kids to school. If we can show them the WOMEN REACH! program and the potentials of growing microenterprises, and help them to run these enterprises, they may be able to support their families while in the country. When that happens, we give them back to their families,” noted Josefino Torres, OWWA Deputy Administrator.
WOMEN REACH! is a combination of the Coca-Cola 5by20 STAR program and OWWA-NRCO’s BalikPinay! BalikHanapbuhay! livelihood program.
The STAR Program is part of 5by20 global initiative of The Coca-Cola Company that aims to empower 5 million women within its value chain by the year 2020. Started in 2011, the STAR Program is implemented nationwide and has already touched the lives of more than 80,000 women microentrepreneurs. This is out of the 200,000 target in the Philippines up to year 2020.
The OWWA-NRCO BalikPinay! BalikHanapbuhay! program is a package of livelihood skills training and starter kits provided to distressed women OFWs, with priority given to victims of illegal recruitment and trafficking and other displaced and low-skilled household service workers that will enable them to quickly start a microenterprise.
Last March, WOMEN REACH! was featured in a panel discussion during the 61st session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (UNCSW) at the UN Headquarters in New York City. Aimed at helping address the continuing feminization of migration to other countries for employment, the forum was led by representatives of Coca-Cola Philippines as the only private sector panelist, Philippine Commission on Women, DOLE and its various agencies, Department of Social Welfare and Development and Department of Foreign Affairs.
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