Conversations with the Community
Talking sustainable livelihoods with women's association member Helen Cristobal
Helen Cristobal’s path first crossed with Quidan Kaisahan three years ago. Helen’s husband had recently passed away and on top of mourning the loss of her husband, she began to feel the pressures of providing for her three children and her grandchildren.
It was around this time, Helen first heard about the San Miguel Women’s Organization in her local barangay (village) from one of the other members. They invited Helen to come along to a meeting and she was curious to know more about this community group. Helen understood the group gets together regularly to discuss community issues and she had heard that they support members with additional income-generating projects.
After the first visit, Helen decided to join, “it helped me realize so many opportunities for additional income. Before the women’s organization, I didn’t know these opportunities were available for me.”
The women’s association work together on a successful co-operative swine fattening projects. They invited Helen to join but that wasn’t the plan she had in mind. Her family had some land and Helen and her family wanted to grow crops there but didn’t have the capital to get started. Helen’s husband had run the farm for many years but they rarely made profit as it all went towards making the repayments to loan sharks who were charging extortionate interest rates.
Helen had a vision for her family and saw the opportunity available through the women’s organization to continue the work of her husband. This time though, with support from the women’s organization and Quidan Kaisahan.
However, the women’s organization hadn’t run any farming projects before. They sought the help of Quidan Kaisahan who have supported this group and their members for more than three years.
“I wanted to manage the land with my son. This is usually the role of a man but I wanted to do everything I could for my grandchildren.” Helen says.
With the help of Quidan's Sustainable Livelihood team, Helen and Quidan begun viability testing, extensive planning and microfinance options for the farm. Quidan’s microfinance options offer significantly lower interest options and helped Helen buy the seeds for the first harvest.
The farm has just seen its third harvest and despite ups and downs, Helen is both incredible proud and grateful for the savings that she has been able to make from this project.
“Before, all the profits from our farm went to pay back the interest of the old loan. Now, I get to keep the profits for my family,”
“I see my grandchildren and it’s my responsibility to help with their school. And now, I can make sure they stay in school,” Helen shared.
Helen’s daughter-in-law, Jenelyn Cristobal, recently joined the Women’s Association herself. Following in Helen’s footsteps, Jenelyn hopes to have a successful project of her own.
It’s only been a couple of months and Jenelyn already feels she has gained, “I see now, it’s a big help when women are empowered. Now we are part of the decision making. Before we weren’t a part of it,” Jenelyn reflects.
Helen shares her knowledge with the other members of the women’s association and is so grateful for the opportunity it has provided her and her family.
“I want to share my experiences with the other members so they can have the same.”