With the depths of culture that have transcended over many generations, women were long before barely given the podium to be at the superior level of leadership endeavors. As numerous movements have emerged and supported women empowerment, however, this perspective has gradually changed over time.
Withstanding the countless adversities and challenges being experienced day by day, the fisherfolk of Barangay Taboc, Libertad, Antique relentlessly toil to earn a living. Having seen the everyday struggles but conversely the potential to prosper the fishing industry in their town, Riza D. Sioco took hold of a responsibility to shape the group of dedicated individuals as she is serving as the president of Taboc Fisherfolks Association (TAFA) since 2018 up to present.
The association is a beneficiary of the Lambaklad Livelihood Project under the Department of Agriculture- Philippine Rural Development Project (DA-PRDP). Recognizing her efforts and courage to be at the forefront of the association, Riza stands with resilience as she executes her functions as a woman leader.
TAFA is a fisherfolk-based association that was first organized in August 2013. Starting off with meager resources, they can hardly keep the association moving. Further challenged by Typhoon Yolanda that cut their hopes with the destruction of their personally-owned pumpboats and nets, the group was then struggling to find their source of living after the calamity. Fortunately, with the assistance provided by the DA-PRDP and the Provincial Local Government of Antique alongside the association counterpart,
the Lambaklad Livelihood Project amounting to P999,950.00 has been instrumental to address the situation.
“I started as a member of TAFA when I was then a Barangay Kagawad in the year 2013, the same year when it was organized. I was elected as secretary of the association and this motivated me to extend more help though it has nothing much yet. Despite knowing that this will take a lot of my time, I pursued to process the needed documents and register our association to the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE),” said Sioco.
Apart from investing her time in processing the needed documents for the development of the association, her passion to serve and hope to better the condition of the fisherfolk in Libertad, Antique fueled her to continue the daily undertakings of TAFA.
“From the start, I believe that this opportunity from DA-PRDP will be beneficial for the people of Taboc since fishing is our primary livelihood. While TAFA is just starting, the pumpboats and nets were destroyed due to Typhoon Yolanda, the reason why my heart goes to the townsfolk all these years up until today and I put most of my time to the association,” Sioco added.
With her experience in managing the TAFA, which is the lead proponent group of the DA-PRDP subproject, she gained knowledge and skills that guided her in handling the association. She had attended several organizational and skills training in relation to the project implementation and also facilitated and submitted numerous proposals to the DA-PRDP. Moreover, she maintained
good standing status with the PLGU by ensuring on-time payment of loans incurred for the Lambaklad operation.
“I must say, all of the training that I've attended had shaped me in managing our association. Being a female leader and being present in various workshops, it was advantageous as I have applied all of my learnings in order to manage our association and as well as to uplift the TAFA,” she stressed.
Putting much effort and dedication towards the improvement of the association, particularly in the field of fishery through the Lambaklad project granted by the DA-PRDP, Riza also personally owned and co-managed Fish Coral or “taba” in the local dialect, and Oyster Culture Project located in Barangay Ipil, Batan, Aklan to support her family’s daily needs as well as to generate employment of fisherfolk. This initiative was founded by the Small Business Corporation under the loan program in the amount of P50,000.00 last June 2021.
With her efficient management of the association, the fisherfolk were reaping the fruits of their labor as they got tons of fish catch presently. This served as an instrument for them to become a recipient of trading capital assistance under the DA-Agribusiness and Marketing Assistance Division (DA-AMAD) 6 through its Kadiwa ni Ani at Kita Program. There were six various provisions given to the enterprise last November 5, 2021 with a total amount of P332,109.20 for its Talipapa Livelihood Project and started the operation on December 5, 2021. The financial support was utilized in the procurement of poultry, meat, fish, and vegetables that they sell in their stall.
With all the big hats she is wearing as a female leader, she also imparted the most difficult part of the endeavor.
“The biggest challenge of leading a group are the misunderstandings, which I believe we mostly experience, if not all. But good enough, we were able to resolve these by calling the attention of those who have concerns and address them through our meetings. I never get tired and I always hold on to the idea that what I am doing is for the benefit of everyone,” said Sioco.
With this positive mindset that she exudes and the significant contributions she had in the advancement of the fishery sector, she was also recognized as one of the Outstanding Fisherfolk by the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) 6 and was featured in "Babaye, Ka-Agri" of the DA.
“To my fellow women leaders, let us continue to serve and guide our members to consistently participate, trust in your capacity to lead with passion and understanding, and above all, always trust in God,” she noted.
Indeed, Riza only exhibits the true supremacy of women leadership that amidst the setbacks and the challenges, women are capable of prompting change, building resilience, and rising above all, may it be in the field of agriculture and fishery. (JBG/April Grace Padilla/PIA6)