To mark International Women’s Day, San Miguel Corporation officially opened its Better World Cubao (BWC), a health, empowerment, and recovery (H.E.R.) center for women from underprivileged backgrounds, including victims of violence. 

       The facility is SMC’s fourth Better World community center built on unused company property to address various issues affecting communities and disadvantaged sectors. 

       Better World Cubao aims to empower underprivileged women, especially mothers, who have gone through difficult times. The center also provides services to support victims of abuse. A total of 360 mothers have already signed on to the program. 

       SMC President and CEO Ramon S. Ang said the company saw the need to build the center after seeing the many adverse effects the pandemic has had on women, especially mothers from poor communities. 

        “With BWC, we hope to give our mothers from disadvantaged communities the tools and guidance they need to be healthier, stronger women for themselves, their families, and communities,” said Ang. 

        “Women’s experiences at home, even their health, work, and economic security have all been affected negatively by the pandemic. We hope to address issues they continue to face by bringing together advocates who will help provide interventions. We want to create a community of women that supports other women,” he added. 

       Women and the pandemic 

       Based on various in-person surveys and research conducted by SMC and its partners, the most common impacts of the pandemic were on women’s health, rights, and mental well-being. 

       Many mothers have also struggled to get access to government clinics because of lack of transport, limited health staff, or reduced clinic hours. 

       Meanwhile, according to a survey conducted by the Commission on Population and Development, 25% of Filipino adults across the Philippines have cited harmful acts in various forms as among the most pressing problems of women during the present health crisis. 

       Another survey conducted by Oxfam also revealed that 43% of women said they feel more anxious, depressed, or ill because of their increased unpaid care and domestic workload. 

       HER Center 

       Through BWC and its partner non-profits, mothers will be able to gain access to health services, learn how to communicate their needs effectively, receive support from other women, and learn more about their rights and push for them. 

       Additionally, the center will help women bounce back from challenging experiences by regaining a positive attitude towards themselves and others. 

        “Right now, our focus is on launching our health clinic, women’s rights workshops, and legal consultations, as well as safe space classes. Our vision is to eventually turn BWC into a community hub that brings together several community agencies to provide programs and services to empower women,” said Ang. 

       He added: “I would like to personally thank our current partners for helping us launch this project. We truly appreciate their guidance on the ground.” 

       One of SMC’s partners in BWC is AHA Learning Center, a non-profit organization focused on providing educational support to public school students and their mothers. AHA, who is also the company’s partner in its Better World Tondo food bank, feeding, and learning center, will serve as BWC’s program implementer. 

        “I like working with San Miguel because they not only care deeply about these issues, but they’re willing to understand the problem long enough, work with the community to figure it out, and give spaces where these interventions can iterate and mature,” said AHA founder Jaton Zulueta. 

       He added: These Better World centers that SMC is putting up mean more than solutions: they inspire us to become better citizens. My world has become better because of these Better World community centers.” 

       Another partner, Likhaan Center for Women’s Health, which develops community-based primary healthcare programs in impoverished rural and urban communities, will run the clinic and address women’s sexual and reproductive health needs. 

       “Likhaan’s clinics in the greater Manila area offer women high-quality community healthcare, while helping them develop their ability to cope with problems. We look forward to working with SMC and bringing our knowledge and expertise to unserved mothers,” said Ronith Susi, the organization’s finance coordinator. 

       Apart from AHA and Likhaan, SMC will also be working with Akbayan Women, Women Writing Women, Bantay Bastos, Angat Buhay Women, and Miriam College. 

       Initially, BWC aims to help mothers-members from surrounding school communities, including Camp Emilio Aguinaldo High School, Juan Sumulong High School, Jose P. Laurel Senior High School, Camarilla Elementary School, Dona Josefa E. Marcos Elementary School, and Kalantiaw Elementary School. 

       Since 2019, SMC has been building Better World community centers, bringing its corporate slogan, “Your World Made Better,” to life. 

       Each SMC community center works to address various social issues impacting different segments of society by partnering with non-profit groups, which are given access to SMC’s vast resources and networks to strengthen their efforts. 

       In September 2019, SMC opened Better World Tondo, a learning and feeding center that also functions as a food bank, to help address hunger and food waste issues in Tondo, Manila. SMC’s partners in this project include AHA Learning Center and Rise Against Hunger. 

       Before the end of June 2020, SMC operationalized Better World EDSA, a COVID-19 PCR testing facility for SMC’s workforce that also served to boost the country’s overall testing capacity and made testing more accessible to Filipinos. 

       In July 2020, SMC, in partnership with Rural Rising Philippines, opened Better World Diliman, a hub and marketplace for fresh produce from farmers all over Luzon, and made available to consumers and resellers at farm gate prices.