According to a Philippine National Demographic and Health survey, one in four Filipino women aged 15 to 49 has experienced domestic abuse. Poverty seems to be a factor with women from low-income households suffering even more than other groups; some of these women have even had their lives threatened.
Erlinda, a Transform participant from Tacloban, endured being a battered wife for many years until her children convinced her to leave her husband. “I tolerated being treated that way because of my kids. I didn’t want to tell them what was happening.” But the separation did not make the pain in her heart go away. Traumatized by her past, she became bitter and unforgiving—even towards other people.
Erlinda tried to keep her mind off the sad experience and focused on selling cooked vegetables, but she struggled to provide for her children as a single mother. She usually kept to herself and carried the bitter load on her own. “I had nobody to share my burdens with because I didn’t have friends.”
When Erlinda joined Transform, she started her journey out of ultra-poverty by starting a second business to generate extra income. Erlinda now has the means to buy more food and other necessities, lifting the stress of survival. But Erlinda was not only helped financially but also emotionally.
Through the program’s new trauma healing sessions, she was encouraged to tell her long-kept story and gradually process her pain. “I feel like I can breathe well now. It has been 10 years since the separation, and I’m glad that I found the strength to move forward. I am happy that I was able to come out of that miserable situation,” Erlinda said.
She shared some of the lessons with her kids so they can also learn about processing their pain. Erlinda encouraged and gave them advice, making them feel that there is someone willing to listen to them. “Because I was able to share and express my long kept pain, wounds, and stories, I feel like my loads have lightened. I feel good now. It feels like I am slowly healing,” she shared.
These trauma healing sessions are something we are trying out incorporating into our Transform program to help participants respond constructively to their life problems. The participants are given a safe space to express themselves without judgment through focused group discussions.
It is unimaginable how ultra-poor women might be suffering through domestic violence with little to no resources and courage to leave the situation they are in. But with the right support, the ultra-poor survivors can get back on their feet and heal from the abuse they have experienced or may be experiencing.
“I have the strength to rise and keep going despite my sad experience. Now, I feel good even though I’m a single parent because I have peace.” – Erlinda