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'Connected Women’s Elevate AIDA' program spurs women empowerment, digital inclusion in Isabela, Basilan

Isabela City in Basilan province may not be the most recognizable city in the Philippines, but it holds a significant milestone in the country’s efforts to promote women empowerment and digital inclusion.

In 2020, it became the first local government unit (LGU) in Region IX to implement the Connected Women’s ELEVATE AIDA program, a digital skills training initiative that aims to equip women with the needed knowledge and tools to participate in the fast-evolving digital economy. Isabela City earned a high record of 98.4% assessment rate.

Three years later, Isabela City stands proud of its decision to partner with Connected Women, and the results speak for themselves. What started as an opportunity that seemed daunting and intimidating due to the absence of digital infrastructure and experience, ended up being a transformative experience both for the LGU and its women.

In a recent Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signing ceremony with the Department of Interior and Local Government and the Aboitiz Foundation, Isabela City Mayor Sitti Djalia Turabin Hataman recounted how they took a leap of faith and said yes to the program that has now become "a vehicle with a clear direction and destination".

Elevate AIDA, which stands for Accelerating Inclusion and Digital Advancement, is an 8-week intensive course that covers data annotation, social media management, virtual assistance, and transcription. It is designed to be accessible to women from all walks of life, including out-of-school youth, unemployed college graduates, single mothers, and those looking to supplement their income. It prepares women to become data annotators and equipped with on-the job training. This introductory course  is tailor-made for Filipino women looking to upskills and transition to online remote work.

Mayor Turabin Hataman said during the MOU signing that Isabela City utilized its gender and development (GAD) funds to invest in the training and tools necessary to support its women’s participation in the program.

The LGU provided tablet PCs and portable mobile wifi units to the top ten performers of every batch, a gesture that proved instrumental in helping some of them transition into freelancing or finding remote work opportunities.

One of the participants, Reymarie Loperas, had to borrow a cousin’s laptop throughout the training, but later received a tablet PC and wifi unit from the LGU. She is now working from home as a data annotator while taking care of her parents. Nihma Duma, another trainee from Batch 3, started freelancing as a data annotator and was later tapped by Connected Women for a project. She also trained on social media marketing and received an award for excellence.

“Our graduates in the program are either working in projects referred by Connected Women as freelancers, earning around Php6,000 to Php9,000 a month or more, depending on the number of hours they choose to work”, Mayor Turabin-Hataman said.

Beyond the program's immediate impact on women’s income and employment, Mayor Turabin- Hataman also believes that the overall message that the Elevate AIDA program sends out is one of equal opportunities.

"We have always said, we do not need dole outs or sympathies. We need opportunities to prove ourselves. Just like our Connected Women story, we said yes because our women, we, do not deserve being left behind. Because we cannot allow another missed opportunity. Yes, we are a struggling city, but yes, we too can lead the way”, Mayor Turabin-Hataman said.

Mayor Turabin-Hataman said that the LGU's partnership with Connected Women is just one of the many initiatives that Isabela City has undertaken in its pursuit of economic growth and social progress.

In recent years, the city has made significant strides in tourism, competitiveness, and poverty reduction. Its competitiveness index improved from being the last in Region 9 to being number 1, the city recorded 357k visitors in 2022 despite the pandemic, and its poverty incidence decreased from 53.1% in 2018 to 23.7% in 2021.

Mayor Turabin Hataman expressed her hope that Isabela City's experience with the Elevate AIDA program could be replicated in other LGUs across the country.

"It is a story of equal opportunities. Because we did it in Isabela City, I am here to support the partnership and hope to hear soon wonderful Elevate AIDA stories from more LGUs”, Mayor Turabin-Hataman said.

Isabela City Basilan may not be the most visible dot on the map, but its Elevate AIDA story illustrates what can be achieved when an underdog community says yes to opportunities that could level off the uneven playing field and provide a head start in a new economic platform. (NBE/EDT/NDR/PIA-Basilan)

About the Author

Nilda Delos Reyes

Information Officer II

Region 9

Currently the Information Center Manager of Basilan Infocenter

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