WEAVING for the women of T’boli, South Cotabato, is a form of financial liberation from in connection with the gender discrimination that their culture and tradition had been observing for generations now.
Jenito Eko founded the Lake Sebu Indigenous Women Weavers Association, Inc. (Lasiwwai) with the primary intent of helping women be financially dependent from their husbands. Before the organization was founded in 2001, T’boli culture allows monogamous marriages among men. In the event of a divorce, the divorced woman is required to return the dowry twice as much and pay the penalty.
Because of this discrimination apparent to women, Eko decided to found an organization that will give voice to women through social enterprise while using something that the women are very capable of doing which is weaving.
Lasiwwai, which currently has 85 weaver-members, seeks to empower women by working on two top priority programs which is Peace and Multi-culturalism and Poverty Reduction.
“We wanted to make the business as a social enterprise which would address the community concerns with proceeds that should be provided by the government. But since our place is very far from the civilization, we decided to act on our own as well through this. The proceeds will also help with our basic needs,” said Eko.
Products of the women weavers of Lasiwwai are currently being showcased and available for purchase at the Abreeza Ayala Malls event grounds from August 11 to August 20 as part of the Mindanao Trade Expo of the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI).
According to Kristine Cordenillo, an anthropology graduate from Ateneo de Davao University and a Lasiwwai volunteer, one of their best-selling products since they have put up their booth, is their T’nalak fabrics. Most of the buyers are foreigners and local fashion designers.
Cordenillo said their traditional and naturally-colored fabrics are available for P3,000 per meter while the synthetically-dyed fabrics are for P600 to P700 per meter. The traditional fabrics also come with Intellectual Property Office of the Philippines (IPOPhil) patent label.
Also, in partnership with the European Union Trade Technical Assistance III (EU TRTA III), the Code of Practice was developed in order to assure the buyers especially the export market of the quality of the T’nalak cloth.
Aside from the fabric, Lasiwwai also sells bracelet made of hard plant seeds from P10 to P50, ID sling made of beads for P150, necklaces made of beads from P100 to P1,200 depending on the designs and materials.
Their brass bracelets are available for P100 while brass bells ranges from P175 to P1,200 depending on the size. Cordenillo said some of the local buyers buy in time for their children’s costume and props for their BuwanngWika culmination program at school.
Now, 16 years after the organization, Cordenillo said the women weavers already feel empowered because they also have a hold of the finances of the family. Divorce for T’boli couples does not necessarily require double payment for dowry and penalty for the part of the women anymore after Eko, who is also a law school graduate had lobby it to their local unit.