Women fishers promote safety, boost productivity

An all-women's fishing group in a coastal village that debones, and processes milkfish improves their safety and productivity after doing risk assessments and applying practical, low-action interventions using the WISE checklist.

Feature | Davao del Norte, Philippines | 25 March 2024
Members of the Cagangohan Women's Association debone and process milkfish ©ILO/J. Bacal
DAVAO DEL NORTE, PHILIPPINES - Cerila Borbon, 59, leads a group of women who debone and process milkfish in Panabo City. The Cagangohan Women’s Association (CWA) began in 2009 with 20 women who hoped for a better income and brighter future for their family.

“The CWA is important because it has helped to educate women in our community, especially those who are older, like me. Together we can earn money, send our children to school, and provide for our family,” Cerila shared.

A fisherfolk and a mother of three, Cerila started as a labourer in mariculture park segregating harvested milkfish. She also helped sell the fish catch of her husband.

Now, Cerila is not only a leader and labourer, but also a trainer of the Work Improvements in Small Enterprises (WISE). The International Labour Organization (ILO) supported enterprises like CWA to improve occupational safety and health (OSH) and boost productivity.

“As a trainer, I was able to share knowledge and change perceptions of what was acceptable at work. It helped us improve and better understand safety and health. After the training, we arranged our disorganized kitchen items and adjusted some tall chairs for height-conscious, comfortable seating. There were many improvements, and we were even able to promote our organization,” said Cerila.

Use of the WISE checklist to assess risks and implement practical, low-cost actions for work improvement. ©ILO/J. Bacal
Using the WISE checklist, the CWA conducted risk assessments and implemented practical, low-cost actions to enhance working conditions and increase production. According to Cerila, adopting the WISE checklist allowed them to keep their workplace safe and comfortable.

Some of the practical, low-action measures taken include storing their tools in a cabinet to keep them clean and neat while also protecting them from pests like rats. In addition, the CWA provided first aid kits and medicines for use if someone is wounded while deboning the milkfish.

“It is vital to keep ourselves healthy, organize our materials and tools, and make our work areas safe and free of any hazards. It is also easy to find our equipment all in one area. This increased our sales and productivity, as customers appreciated more the quality of our products,” says Cerila.

Cerila is among the 259 trainers of the WISE methodology, reaching 2,474 small enterprises like CWA. Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME) improvement is valuable as they make up over 99 per cent of businesses in the Philippines, which creates majority of jobs.

“Enterprises need to address risks and hazards to prevent work-related disease, injury and death. All these will affect productivity and sustainability. A safe and healthy working is now recognized as a fundamental right. It is no longer an option or a moral choice,” said Director Khalid Hassan of the ILO Country Office for the Philippines.

Members of the CWA contribute to enhancing working conditions and increasing production by adopting the WISE checklist. ©ILO/J. Bacal
The ILO’s Bringing Back Jobs Safely with the Government of Japan supported micro, small and medium enterprises and expanded the WISE programme in Bicol, Zamboanga and Davao. These trainings were done in partnership with the government, workers’ and employers’ organizations including informal sector enterprises and Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) networks.

The programme helped promote safety and health at work, improve working conditions and increase productivity of enterprises. Beyond skills training, WISE is highly participatory as it empowers enterprises to identify risks and challenges then adopt practical low-cost actions and local solutions.