The Philippines is a land rich with arts and culture. Despite long-standing issues of poverty, corruption, and socio-economic divide, the country shines in areas of theater, dance, painting, sculpture, indigenous crafts, and more. It’s even a common stereotype that if you’re a Filipino, you must be good at some kind of art (most popularly: singing, but often also in the visual aspects as well). As such, it’s no surprise that when it comes to livelihood projects in the Philippines intent on bridging the gap in that socio-economic divide, and healing the wounds of poverty and corruption, a common antidote is “creativity”. There are 3 of my own favorite livelihood projects/brands in the Philippines that use craftsmanship and creativity to help people make new and better futures for themselves.
So I have to first admit my bias before I begin talking about Milvidas: this particular brand was kickstarted by my mother and her eldest sister, and they’ve been running it for the past several years. That said, I’m an avid supporter of their products not only because of the cause they back, but the quality of each piece as well.
Milvidas is a livelihood project that works in conjunction with Gawad Kalinga — a massive NGO with a mandate to end poverty for 5 million families in the Philippines by 2024.
“Gawad Kalinga,” translated in English means to “give care”, is a Philippine-based movement that aims to end poverty by first restoring the dignity of the poor. It employs an integrated and holistic approach to empowerment with values-formation and leadership development at its core. Established in 2003, The Foundation currently works with over 2,000 communities and has been recognized as the 2006 Ramon Magsaysay Awardee & 2012 Skoll Awardee for Social Entrepreneurship. (Source: GK1World.com)
The brand was born of my mother and aunt’s shared interest in crocheting. Years ago, they both got into it as a hobby, but instead of doing it just for fun, they decided to share their skills with some of the women across two specific GK Communities. These women often struggled to get stable income for their families as majority of their husbands are carpenters on contracts who can have a high season and a low season. Now, 6 years, many bazaars, and tons of colorful product ideas later, Milvidas is a fully-fledged livelihood program and brand of pretty, handmade crocheted goods and accessories. Click through to the link above (and like their page) to learn more about where you can buy them, order them, or get more involved!
If you’re crafty and like gifting, then you’ll probably enjoy products by The Paper Project. They are a livelihood project/social enterprise for abused/trafficked women that makes cute, fun handcrafted cards out of locally sourced, handmade paper from abaca fiber. Their main cause is rescue, recovery, rehabilitation, and livelihood support for prostitution, abuse, and the like, and they continue their advocacy beyond simply providing sustainable livelihood to these women, but also giving them continued empowerment opportunities, training, and support while in their employ.
You can learn more about them through the link above, and purchase their stationaries here.
Last but not the least, I wanted to be sure to feature Rags2Riches: a now-established brand of accessories (bags, wallets, purses, clutches, etc) built on empowering local artisans by co-creating designs made of ethically sourced and recycled materials. All of their accessories are made with scrap cloth, and are done in partnership with local craftsmen who bring their own expertise in traditional weaving techniques to the table.