UNFPA’s “Cash for Protection” program helps single mother survive abuse

A MOSEP staff on her way to visit a GBV survivor to provide cash support under the Cash for Protection program ⓒ UNFPA Philippines
A MOSEP staff on her way to visit a GBV survivor to provide cash support under the Cash for Protection program ⓒ UNFPA Philippines

4 minute read

The rainy season has come again in Tulanan, a city in The Philippines. For single mother Sarah, it brings back bitter memories.  Keeping an eye on her store and her two young children, aged three and one, Sarah remembers the pain her partner put her through and how UNFPA’s “Cash for Protection” program helped her support her family.

“This rain reminds me of those years of verbal abuse and how my partner eventually left me and the kids,” she said, holding back tears.

Sarah was anxious after a series of earthquakes had shaken her home. She took her two sons to visit her partner, who was working away from home as part of the Philippines’ military.  

“The children were missing their father so much that I thought I would pay him a surprise visit.” Sarah was not prepared for her partner to tell her, “Leave now. I am now with another woman.” 

Sarah and the two boys left hurriedly, in disbelief. 

“I thought of taking my own life at that very moment,” Sarah recalled. “But I watched my children.  They are so young and innocent.  They would still need a mother around.”  

Her failed relationship and thought of raising her sons by herself distressed Sarah and kept her up at night.  She was able to receive child support, but, she said, “The income was barely enough to put three meals on the table.”

Sarah and her sons moved into her mother’s house. With some money she had saved and with help from UNFPA’s Cash for Protection program, Sarah opened a small business. She remembers putting all of her time and energy into it.

26% of ever-married Filipino women have experienced violence at the hands of a husband or partner, just like Sarah did.

That’s over 1 in 4 women who have survived abuse and are trying to put their lives back together. Prior to the outbreak of COVID-19, the Center for Women’s Resources reported that more than 16 million Filipino women were ‘economically insecure’. The report also showed that those living in poverty were vulnerable to gender-based violence (GBV).  Coronavirus and community quarantine measures have led to a rise in reports of domestic violence. This indicates that many women are dealing with both abuse and financial stresses.

After the earthquakes hit the Philippines, UNFPA began working with local partners, including the Mindanao Organization for Social and Economic Progress Incorporated (MOSEP). The organizations addressed the physical, emotional, and socio-economic consequences of GBV in evacuation centers established in earthquake-affected communities. UNFPA’s support included caring for survivors, helping women report abuse, and educating men on the consequences of GBV. The project has continued in spite of the challenges posed by the pandemic and quarantines. 

MOSEP’s Executive Director, Mariam Ali, said “GBV can escalate among those couples whose homes are hit by an external crisis, such as earthquake, typhoon, or armed conflict. If the abusers believe in violence as a solution, or mistakenly think that women are lesser than men, then the stress and uncertainty brought about by such an emergency can increase the risk of abuse.” 

Cash for protection, hope, and freedom.

UNFPA's Cash for Protection initiative fills Sarah’s store with supplies and her heart with hope and confidence.  ⓒ UNFPA Philippines
UNFPA’s Cash for Protection initiative fills Sarah’s store with
supplies and her heart with hope and confidence. 
ⓒ UNFPA Philippines

Sarah was among those who benefited from UNFPA’s new “Cash for Protection” program, implemented with MOSEP. The program created a social safety net for survivors of gender-based violence.  Each woman receives a cash aid worth PHP 10,000 (approximately USD 200) from the initiative.

“Many women in abusive relationships do not leave their violent partners, because of financial dependence. They are not confident if they can survive and support their children by themselves alone.  Because of natural disasters and now with COVID, these women are even more unsure of their potential to become independent. This is exactly why this cash-transfer assistance is so significant for vulnerable women. I helps them break ties with their abusive partners. These women have a sense of empowerment, ownership, and resilience. Of standing on her own two feet,” Ms. Ali of MOSEP highlights.

Sarah was at a town hall for GBV survivors hosted by MOSEP, when the government lifted some COVID-19 restrictions, allowing her to reopen her business.

Sarah was grateful for UNFPA’s ‘Cash for Protection’ support.  “I will use some of the money as additional capital for my small business,” she shared.  “It would be a lie if I say I don’t remember the painful memories.  But at least, the six years of an abusive relationship that I had to endure is gone, it’s over,” Sarah said.  “I will spend the remaining money for the needs of my sons, and also save a little for our future.”

UNFPA Philippines originally published this story.

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