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Filipina social entrepreneurs’ stories offer much needed solutions to our social problems

Ashoka Philippines


Filipina social entrepreneurs’ stories offer much needed solutions to our social problems

Betty Listino is one of the Filipina women social entrepreneurs featured by a DIWA Media Fellow.

Karlston Lapniten (Baguio Chronicle)

In this current crowded media landscape where thousands of stories are vying for our attention, what can social entrepreneurs do to get their missions across as a mainstream concern? 

Imagine all the hard-working innovators across Southeast Asia and the world who are toiling tirelessly to solve society’s wicked problems but receive little to no recognition. 

This is why Ashoka Southeast Asia and S&P Global Foundation created the DIWA Media Fellowship. Through the Fellowship, journalists and media practitioners connected with women social entrepreneurs who have participated in the DIWA capacity-building program and were given support to produce stories that put these women and their inspiring work front and center. 

Let’s take a look at how our very own Filipina women social entrepreneurs are harnessing their changemaking powers for the good of their communities from the words and lenses of 8 journalists and media practitioners. 

Weaving cultural preservation with livelihood

For many, weaving is a matter of survival, not just for their day-to-day sustenance, but also for their own heritage. 

The Marawi siege of 2017 displaced 370,000 people, including thousands of Maranao families. Salika Maguindanao was among those forced to take refuge in an evacuation site. From the rubble and ruin, she founded the Maranao Collectible Service Cooperative, empowering Maranao artisans, mostly women, to earn an income while preserving the rich tradition of the langkit. 

Read Salika’s story as told by Janess Ellao 

Like Salika, Anya Lim of ANTHILL Fabric founded the social enterprise to uplift the local weaving industry. In the process, women of various cultures are able to provide for their families and keep their traditional designs alive. The threat of towns abandoning their craft and consequently, culture, for more lucrative careers strengthened Anya’s resolve.

As the local weaving industry continues to thrive, Pamela Mejia seeks to address the interconnected issue of textile waste crowding landfills. Through Pamela’s social enterprise, Phinix, women weavers turn scraps and discarded clothes into higher-value footwear, fashion accessories and lifestyle pieces. 

Read Anya and Pamela’s story as told by Geela Garcia  

Photo by Geela Garcia

Another issue that has risen in prominence with the proliferation of modernizing traditional designs is cultural appropriation, or taking something from a culture for one’s personal interest without proper acknowledgment. This is a problem Veronica Baguio was mindful of when she founded Balik Batik. The social entrepreneur aims for appreciation over appropriation by weaving relationships instead of transactions with partner indigenous groups. 

Read Veronica’s story as told by Ace Perez 

Growing seeds of solutions

Aside from weaving, millions of Filipinos turn to farming to provide both for their families and the country. 

Coffee for Peace co-founder Joji Pantoja relocated to Mindanao from Canada for her work as a missionary. Through her immersion with peace negotiations in the island, she discovered that parties in conflict could talk and listen to each other over a cup of coffee. With Coffee for Peace, Joji enables coffee farmers to be peace advocates and entrepreneurs as well.

Read Joji’s story as told by Bong Sarmiento   

Like Pamela, social innovator Lorie Daquioag of North Cotobato noticed that waste – in this case, in the form of food and other biodegradable material – was a problem in her community. She established Waste for Good and true to the organization’s name, Lorie has prototyped a kit that can process waste into organic fertilizer. 

Read Lorie’s story as told by Jun Aguirre 

Photo by Jun Aguirre
No changemaker is an island

Highlighting the achievements of these changemakers is by no means an effort to discount the fact that their impact is possible through constant collaboration. Women social entrepreneurs connect communities as they utilize empathy, teamwork, and creativity to build bridges between people. 

It is no wonder that several women-led local initiatives sprung up in 2020, at the height of the pandemic. The period of isolation underscored the basic need of human connection, especially for those experiencing trauma in their own homes. This is why Sabrina Gacad launched Lunas Collective with her team. Lunas is a chat service helpline for survivors of gender-based violence and those seeking information on sexual and reproductive health. 

Read Sabrina’s story as told by Susan Claire Agbayani 

Getting to the root of trauma to solve social problems is extremely difficult and necessitates cooperation between changemakers of diverse backgrounds. When Betty Listino of Benguet lost her sister to a wave of suicides in farming communities, she joined an interdisciplinary team whose research eventually led to the banning of readily-accessible pesticides without antidotes. This sparked her to establish Pansigedan Advocacy Cooperative, a community of leaders across sectors who are currently offering research and development, including wellness, services.  

Read Betty’s story as told by Karlston Lapniten

The benefits of community and connection can also be felt in less traumatic situations. For obstacles such as red tape and hefty fines for incorrectly-filed paperwork, getting the knowledge and expertise of experienced professionals translates to valuable time and money saved. Three women, namely Pauline Santos, Ginger Arboleda, and Gina Lynn Valdez, are doing exactly this so that other social entrepreneurs in turn can be on top of their accounting and focus on what really matter. 

Listen to their stories, produced by Tricia Aquino 

Geometric shapes surrounding calculators and a laptop with an open spreadsheet
Tricia Aquino interviews 3 alumnae of Ashoka’s DIWA program in “A Better Normal”

Imagine if more young Filipinas knew that they didn’t have to look far to find their role models. We hope that more journalists and media practitioners are inspired by changemakers like these DIWA alumnae. Through their powerful voices and platforms, storyteller allies can move women and their achievements beyond recognition into gathering support for the important movements they are leading. 

Want to learn more? Discover more stories of women social entrepreneurs.

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