There are three significant questions our team is working to answer in regards to cultural issues that will likely be of vital importance to our project. The first is learning how gender roles are perceived in the Philippines. As we are working with a women’s cooperative we are anticipating some pushback from the women’s husbands as the women begin to help provide for the household financially as well. In many cultures, the idea of machismo reigns supreme and husbands allowing their wives to help provide for the family financially may be perceived as an attack on their masculinity and ability to single-handedly provide for their families. In addition, as the women will be outside of the household more, there may be a perceived difference in how much time they are spending mothering any children they may have in addition to how clean their houses may be. The second question we would like to answer is what kinds of products will have the most value to citizens of the Philippines. Perhaps a chair is more likely to make a significant profit than jewelry, at this stage of the project we simply aren’t sure. This is why we are working to establish more of a connection with our partnering university in the Philippines, to essentially gain perspectives that we as Americans aren’t privy to. The third question is what sort of perception do Filipinos have of recycled products in general. We’ve observed that Americans will often place a premium on recycled goods as they feel they are doing a service to the environment, however we currently aren’t aware of how Filipinos look upon recycled goods themselves. We are considering the possibility they may believe recycled goods to be of inferior quality and won’t be willing to purchase them, or at the least may not be willing to pay very much for them.
Within the US, although it is less prevalent among American citizens, there is still certainly a culture of machismo. The concept of a stay-at-home Dad (like I had for a time) is often looked down upon. A wife and mother providing for her family is looked at far differently than a husband and father doing the same. Even the idea that women always need protecting is an example of machismo that women and allied males are currently trying to put to bed. Even conducting market research on products in the US often proves to be a challenge that companies are willing to pay thousands or millions of dollars to consulting firms for. Understanding our own citizens’ psychologies and consumer tendencies proves to be enough of an issue that this is the case. Many schools and towns are happy to pay somewhat of a premium to create public benches out of recycled materials rather than those made purely of new ones. This demonstrates America as a whole’s willingness to do so.
Although machismo is present in Filipino culture, due to the large importance placed on the idea of family as a whole, we have high hopes that we will be able to utilize this to our advantage in convincing the families that women should be able to work and help provide financially to the good of the whole as well. The community we are helping is said to have high amounts of litter. Filipinos also place great significance on the community as a whole as well. This can be leveraged to perhaps create campaigns to reduce littering of plastic goods, and instead give their waste directly to the recycling center. The love of many Filipinos for unique art and architecture will help when it comes to selling the products the women will create. Because each mold of plastic can be filled with many different colors of plastic, no two products will look the same.