Bridging the Gender Gap…. At Home

Bridging the Gender Gap…. At Home

Irene Valdez.jpg13 June 2019

Not so long ago, Ka Oting Villanueva, like many men in the central Philippines province of Negros Occidental, regarded a husband’s role as simply that of a provider. “He never used to help me with any of the household chores,” says his wife. “In fact, I don’t think it ever crossed his mind!”

Thinking that household tasks were only for women, Ka Oting was surprised when Oikocredit partner NWTF offered him gender awareness training as he assumed such courses were only aimed at women. His training brought him a whole new perspective.

Changing mindsets

“I now take my whole family out for recreation,” says Ka Oting. “Leisure time with my family was non-existent before. I even attend my children’s school activities  ̶  in the past, I always left that to my wife!”

So, what was it that caused this huge turnaround in Ka Oting’s way of thinking?

It seems that the Financial Action Learning System (FALS) training programme he attended was a pivotal moment for him…and indeed for his whole family.  

Bridging the gender gap

One of Oikocredit’s capacity building initiatives, the Bridging the Gender Gap in Responsible Finance project, jointly funded by the Church of Sweden and Oikocredit, introduced the FALS methodology, developed in the sector by gender empowerment expert Linda Mayoux who has worked on gender mainstreaming and women's empowerment in economic development since 1997. The FALS toolkit training forms part of the Gender Age and Minority Empowerment for Change (Game Change Network). The FALS methodology was adapted to train staff and clients of two of Oikocredit's Philippines partners: ASKI* and NWTF. Both organisations provide inclusive financial services to support mainly low-income borrowers and micro entrepreneurs.

The overall aim of the project was to enable women and men clients to achieve economic empowerment at the household level and improved gender relationships. In supporting this project, Oikocredit confirms its commitment to gender equality while the FALS financial empowerment tools help Oikocredit’s partners to develop enhanced products tailored to the financial needs of their clients.

Ka Oting Villanueva was invited to take part in the FALS training programme as head of a fisherfolk organisation which is an NWTF partner. The training provided ‘a gender lens’ through which both male and female client participants could closely examine how their household tasks are shared (or indeed NOT shared) between men and women.  

Simple but effective tools

Among the various FALS training tools introduced to both NWTF and ASKI staff and their clients which proved highly effective was the Happy Family Tree. This tool requires the client participants to take a close look at the division of work, spending, assets and decision-making in the family.

The participants were initially shy about drawing their own Happy Family Tree for fear of being laughed at by their peers, but once explained the goals of the exercise (creating a tree to show the division of household work within the family) the participants quickly understood its value and drew enthusiastically.

Improved relationships and better financial management

So what did the FALS training achieve? Oikocredit’s Capacity Building and Social Performance Coordinator for South East Asia, Marilou Juanito was enthusiastic by the results: “In 2017, we introduced a number of NWTF and ASKI clients to FALS and in just a short period of time, I saw how the participants in the training programme created changes in their relationships both in the home and in managing their finances. I didn’t imagine that using and sharing a simple gender participatory tools could be truly empowering.”

Marilou added: “In financial inclusion, it’s crucial for institutions to understand the needs of their clients – and FALS tools can facilitate the identification of these needs and help develop financial and non-financial services.”

Initial results

Oikocredit International’s Programme Officer, Malu Padilla co-ordinated the Bridging the Gender Gap project with Marilou Juanito and was equally enthusiastic when she attended the FALS training.

Malu explains: “What struck me most was that the financial management training really got participants to change their way of thinking about roles and household tasks. The FALS participants came away with a real understanding that if their small family businesses are to prosper it is essential that both men and women share the household work.”

She continues: “To illustrate this, participants were asked to think about the problem of long hours spent washing clothes and how best to save time for other tasks. How could they achieve this? Not (as I myself had initially thought) by hiring another washerwoman but by purchasing a washing machine. In doing so, the men could also learn how to use the machine, significantly reducing washing time and freeing up time for the benefit of their farms or small businesses.”

More than just loans

The FALS tools are simple but create change. Take ASKI client Irene Valdez for example. Irene comments that she now plans ahead and carefully considers all aspects of the financial support she receives from ASKI.

Irene sums up the impact of FALS as follows: “Before the training, it felt like just one cycle of borrowing and paying. Now learning from FALS, my loans have purpose. I was taught how to define my own vision and plan accordingly to achieve my goals.”

Following her FALS training, Irene put the savings from her small retail store into her pig-raising business: she eventually raised a sow and sold the piglets.

An important ingredient in the success of the FALS project was the appointment and training of project champions among the client participants. Most of ASKI’s project champions were long-term clients.   

Mother and son benefitted

Josephine Osorio, a pig farmer and client of NWTF liked another FALS tool, the Financial Management Calendar which helped her to set and meet her own savings targets, build up capital for her business and double the number of her sows and piglets within one year.

Josephine continues: “I was able to have some house repairs done with the income from my business, but I put more effort into constructing a proper pig pen because that is where my money grows.” The business enabled her to support her five children at school; one of her sons followed his mother’s example by becoming a FALS champion and made such a good impression that NWTF offered him a job at their company.

Spreading the word

In her role as project champion, Josephine initially shared the FALS tools with 25 members of her association. Then through the sharing of the FALS tools, she was able to attract new members to join the association which has now grown in size to over 600 members. 

The success of the FALS project was reflected in the positive feedback and success stories from the project champions.

Final thoughts

The final word should go to Ka Oting Villanueva who used to think that a husband’s role was simply to provide and who used to spend all his spare time on raising fighting roosters. 

“Just ask my wife,” he nods and begins to smile: “She turned to me at home the other day and said: I feel like my children now have a real father!”

NWTF recently reported Ka Oting was unable to participate in a recent FALS focus group evaluation. He was organising a coastal clean-up event as part of his association’s International Women’s Day celebration…….

*ASKI was an Oikocredit partner during the period that the programme ran; it has since repaid its loan.

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