Voices from KimiNANAY: An Interview with President Marivic Cabesas Moreno

Even though we are from a small town, we want to be an inspiration to the whole world and show why it is important for women to be trustworthy, happy, and loving in everything that they do.


Last Tuesday, we kicked off our KimiNANAY Sewing for Sustainability fundraiser, which seeks to raise 600 USD (30,000 PHP) for sewing machines that will be used to develop a sustainable livelihood program on reusable mask-making for the women of KimiNANAY, a women’s association in the fishing village of Sitio Kiminawit. 

Today, we had the absolute pleasure of interviewing Marivic Cabesas Moreno (affectionately referred to as “Ate Marivic”), the president of KimiNANAY. Her insights on her life, her community, and the importance of providing women with livelihoods were as beautiful as they were eye-opening. The following is a translated and condensed version of our interview. 

President Marivic Cabesas Moreno 

Could you elaborate on the formation of KimiNANAY and its history so far? 

KimiNANAY was created in 1999, and I have been its president since then. Before any sewing workshops, the activities we participated in were only small-town activities and occasional parades. Then, when the Conservation Sewmates program began, we had the opportunity through sewing turtles to mobilize as a community and earn a living. We are very excited to mobilize again and see what we can do as an association for women who are currently staying home because of the pandemic. Many women want to join our organization, but only fifteen will be asked to participate in workshops at the moment because of COVID-19. In the future, we look forward to engaging more women! 

What else do you want from KimiNANAY in the future and where do you see this collective going? 

As Ate Marivic speaks, she begins to get emotional and teary-eyed. 

Having a source of living is so important. In our community, I am seeing some of the most extreme poverty we have ever experienced. The pandemic has exposed how poor our community is, especially the women. We can’t even rely on the ocean to provide us with food anymore. That is why we won’t just sit around and wait for money to come through our husbands. Even on days when our husbands have no catch, we want to be able to buy rice for our children. It is difficult because I am so busy right now, but engaging with the women’s collective is key to finding a solution. I would never even think of resigning from my position because of how many women reach out to me for help. 

What is the effect of the women’s financial empowerment on the whole community? 

It helps so much with the children’s schooling since online classes create so many extra requirements, like internet and data connection, that many do not have the budget for. The needs of the children’s schooling are so important to fulfill, and not everyone is covered by the government’s welfare program. Also, the extra source of income is needed since fishing is so difficult to make a living from these days, especially since there are often long storms that prevent the fishermen from going out to sea, 

What was it like learning how to sew from the training workshops with your partnership with Ten Knots and Conservation Sewmates?  

Ate Marivic can’t stop giggling as she answers this question. 

Conservation Sewmates was a very fulfilling and enjoyable experience for all of us! It was everyone’s first time learning how to sew, so it was very funny when it was time to show each other our hand-sewn turtles for the first time. Some turtles looked fine, some looked so ugly, and other didn’t look like turtles at all! The first few turtles were deformed, with lopsided eyes and beaks, but we were still proud of them, because we had sewn them ourselves.

The women of KimiNANAY participate in their first sewing training workshop. 

How did it feel to receive the first paycheck from your hand-crafted turtles? 

All of us felt very fulfilled because we were finally able to contribute to our families’ incomes. 

How did the sewing workshops and accompanying financial literacy workshops impact your lives? 

Before we participated in any sewing workshops, we just went about our daily lives, performing normal household activities. Because of what we learned from the workshops, we are inspired to do more in our daily lives. We started to plan more and get involved in more activities because we see that there is something out there other than our typical household duties. 

We also wanted to open our own bank accounts but couldn’t because of the pandemic. Now, we want to first create a savings fund for emergencies so that the Women’s Association can give out funds to members who need it. 

How do you feel knowing that the turtles you’ve sewn are probably all across the world, being enjoyed by many different people? 

I’m very happy about it. I sometimes wonder—who are we, from our little community, to be making things that will go to different places, all over the world?  

Gathered at the school in the village center, the women plan for their new futures. 

If you were to describe KimiNANAY in a couple of words, what would they be? 

Trustworthy, happy, and loving. All of us in the organization will try our best to rise up from poverty and create new sources of income for our family. 

Is there anything else about your association that you would like us to tell the readers of this article and potential donors? 

Even though we are from a small town, we want to be an inspiration to the whole world and show why it is important for women to be trustworthy, happy, and loving in everything that they do. 

ToTo help Ate Marivic and the rest of the KimiNANAY women establish sustainable livelihoods for their families and community, scan the QR codes below to donate. If you’re based in the Philippines, you may send in your contributions to the BPI and GCASH Accounts below. If you’re based in the United States, you may send in your contributions to the Venmo account below.

Izzy George is a rising junior at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. majoring in Science, Technology, and International Affairs. Originally from North Carolina, USA, she enjoys hiking, kayaking, and backpacking in her free time. In the future, she hopes to unlock the synergies between sustainable resource management and economic development to address challenges surrounding food security, gender equity, and climate change.

Carsten Schoer is an International Business and Finance major at the McDonough School of Business at Georgetown University. On campus, he is part of Zeeba Investment Fund and the Compass Fellowship among other organizations. With a passion for social impact, DEI, corporate social responsibility, and sustainability, Carsten strives to improve any environment he finds himself in.

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