An independent woman in the time of COVID-19


Misria went from cook to dressmaker, gaining new skills in order to support her family.

READY TO HELP. Misria sewed face mask coverings for COVID-19 frontliners in her hometown.
READY TO HELP. Misria sewed face mask coverings for COVID-19 frontliners in her hometown.

MAGUINDANAO, Philippines, Misria has plenty of dreams and she’s not letting the pandemic get in her way.

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, Misria made a living by cooking Maguindanao delicacies. Her specialties includethe famous pastil, a banana leaf-wrapped meal comprised of steamed rice topped with shredded chicken, fish, or beef.

Every day, she sells these meticulously prepared home-cooked meals from her own house. She had regular customers; however, her business was affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Misria is not alone. The pandemic has affected people’s businesses, jobs, and sources of income everywhere in the Philippines and the world.

In fact, around more than 4 million Filipinos were out of work as of July 2020, according to the Philippine Statistics Authority.

But Misria is not giving up, her three children keep her going.

New skills, new start

One day, Misria was asked to accompany a friend to the the TESDA-accredited Ebrahim Institute of Technology. Her friend was planning on enrolling in a dressmaking course.

While waiting for her friend to finish enrollment, Misria wandered around the dressmaking workshop area. The rows of sewing machines and  piles of beautiful fabric reminded Misria of her forgotten dream of becoming a professional dressmaker.

When Misria got home, she immediately borrowed a sewing machine from her mother-in-law. She wanted to give dressmaking a try. There was one problem though, the sewing machine they had was old and broken.

Misria spent the next seven days fixing the sewing machine all by herself.

During this time, Misria’s friend informed her that her dressmaking class is still looking for one student. Misria was delighted, almost jumping in joy. Misria then enrolled and began taking dressmaking classes alongside her friend.

Upon completing the dressmaking course, Misria started producing small kitchen rags using her mother-in-law’s sewing machine at home. She sold them to neighbors and friends.

“It is empowering and inspiring to generate my own profit even in small ways,” said Misria. “I don’t want to be dependent on my husband’s meager income from coconut harvesting.”

“I want to make my own money while also pursuing my passion for sewing,” Misria added. “This way, I can support myself and my whole family.”

Each of the learners in her class was granted new sewing machines. Together with her classmates, Misria whole-heartedly volunteered to sew washable cloth face coverings for COVID-19 frontliners.

In just one week, Misria and her classmates produced 6,000 pieces. This initiative is part of the COVID-19 response of Plan International’s Reach Mindanao Project.

Today, Misria is now a technical-vocational education and training (TVET) assistant instructor at the Ebrahim Institute of Technology.

The former student is now the teacher.

The school trusts Misria, her skills, attitude, and work ethics. “Misria perseveres and ensures that all her work are of high-quality,” her colleagues shared.

“I am thankful for being given the opportunity to grow,” Misria said. “The skills and lessons I learned are indeed life-changing. And now I want to share what I learned with more women.”


Misria is a beneficiary of the Reach Mindanao Project, which is part of Plan International Philippines’ Youth Economic Empowerment Program.

The project strengthens the capabilities of young Filipinos, by enriching their technical and vocational skills, so they may gain decent employment or start their own business.

The project is funded by Reach Out To Asia.

Skills and work, COVID-19, Vocational training