UNICEF and lifestyle media unite to improve literacy services for T’boli women

Women of the T'boli tribe feel a new sense of independence when they learn literacy and numeracy skills important for everyday tasks.

Women of the T’boli tribe feel a new sense of independence when they learn literacy and numeracy skills important for everyday tasks.

UNICEF (United Nations Children’s Fund), together with select members of lifestyle media gathered together to support efforts of women to advance their literacy skills and to celebrate the creativity of indigenous women of the T’boli tribe.

The T’boli, one of the indigenous peoples of Southern Mindanao, is known for their affinity for colorful adornments and weaves. They are also popular for an exotic fabric called t’nalak, the T’boli sacred cloth of abaca made with centuries-old practices passed down from generation to generation.

The T’boli’s main source of livelihood are farming and fishing. Most of them do not know how to read, write and count, especially women who are left in the house to take care of their children. According to a national survey conducted by the Social Weather Stations, women in Mindanao are rated poorest in terms of education indicators such as functional literacy. Functional literacy refers to the population 10 years old and over who possess not only reading and writing skills but also numeracy skills and the ability to participate fully and efficiently in activities commonly occurring in one’s life.

Despite their knowledge of complex weaves and intricate beadwork, research revealed that T’boli women could not write their own names or perform simple arithmetic operations. For the past 13 years, UNICEF has been working with local government partners to help these women take charge of their lives and become more engaged in their community through valuable skills.

Today, key members of the lifestyle media give their efforts a boost through a fund raising luncheon for UNICEF’s Female Functional Literacy (FFL) project. The FFL project has been one of the successful models of literacy-building in the Philippines. Initiated in 1995 as a component of the Fourth Country Programme for Children (CPC IV) of UNICEF, the FFL project today is an integrated literacy package that equips participants with functional literacy and numeracy skills, as well as good health practices.

The event also served as a venue for lifestyle editors and writers to be familiar with UNICEF’s work in the Philippines.