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                           Empowerment of Women through Microcredit
                            Women Empowerment And AbS-Cbn Bayan Foundation

                                                                  Irma Cosico, Head of Operation Group,
                                                                  AbS-Cbn Bayan Foundation, Philippines

        Poverty incidence everywhere has remained high despite many development efforts
of government and non-government organizations. As a proportion to the population,
poverty incidence was placed between 30 to 50% during the past 3 years. In the
Philippines, this is pegged at 34.9% in 2001. The challenge for all poverty reduction efforts
is to raise incomes of as many people as possible and increase the poor’s share in the
country’s resources and their access to public resources. The government has identified
that poverty reduction strategy in rural areas should focus on creating jobs through boosting
agriculture and fisheries activities and providing seed capital to micro and small business.

          Women’s poverty and their ability to gain economic sufficiency have
              important repercussions for society as a whole……

       More often than not, women and children become victims of poverty as they are
less able to afford and sometimes denied access to basic social services such as education,
health care and nutrition. Women always find themselves in situations where they are
burdened with augmenting the family income. They are often seen involved in many different
income generating activities and sources out funding for these initiatives. In the survival
economy of the poor, women are often saddled with negative returns of oppressive lending
mechanisms of loan sharks and /or stringent lending procedures of financial institutions.

        However, when they gain access to loans and are able to start a small business out
of a very little capital, studies have shown that when women have extra income , they
channel these earnings into meeting their children’s needs. This means better food, better
health care, sending children to school, among others. Women view that investing in their
children is a “voluntary social capital” that provides the foundation for the next generation
who will later assume productive roles in society.

        While women have the ability to succeed, not all have the opportunity to succeed.
Microfinance programs of many NGOs, specifically of microfinance institutions (MFIs), can
make this happen. The different cultural, regional and ethnic background of women affect
the ways they will view and respond to opportunities. Success stories of women-
microentrepreneurs of the different MFIs suggest that there are some women who are
determined to succeed given small capital while others remain lackadaisical and continue to
enter/exit or hop from one kind of business to another.

                    Many women-microentrepreneurs in urban areas are literally
                     on the street – selling food, crafts and other products in
                        local-open air markets and on street curbs……

       Worldwide, the International Labor Organization (ILO) literatures show that women
contribute to and are affected by trade globalization. Women own between ½ and 1/3 of the
business worldwide. For example, in Latin America, 70% of home-based craftworkers
produce and sell textiles, jewelries and ceramics for both local and global markets. In India
and Bangladesh, 90% of working women are in the informal sector. In Africa, 80 to 90% of

domestic food crops are produced by women. In the Philippines, it was estimated that
employment in the unorganized, informal sector in 1995 constituted 73% in wholesale and
retail trade (Virola, 1999), the sector which MFIs serve. In the National Capital Region
(NCR) alone, about 520,000 persons were employed in the informal sector (Guerrero,
1999). The National Council of Women in the Philippines (Yao 2000) reported that “women
are increasingly drawn in subcontracting, casualization and other exploitative schemes
causing the ranks of unprotected home-based workers to swell”.

         Philippine MFI statistics show that from 80-90% of their clients are women. With
current estimated outreach of about 600,000, MFIs may have from 480,000 to 540,000
women-microentrepreneurs with existing small business either in the service, manufacturing
or agricultural sector . This suggests that the informal sector, particularly women, play a
significant role in income generation and economic-social development.

       Looking at the cross-section of sectors where women-microentrepreneurs are found,
they are usually in the retail trade sector, manufacturing, agriculture and services.

                               Beyond credit, women need empowerment

        Socio-economic empowerment has become a buzzword in microfinance; most
microfinance institutions have projects and programs aiming to equip women with the
necessary skills, knowledge and attitude, not only about their business but also in dealing
with their community and even with their families. Agenda 21 spelled out that empowering
women is not only increasing their control over decisions within and outside household – it is
also about bringing their vision and leadership in the development agenda, it is about
women’s involvement in conflict resolution and peace process – it is about advocating
gender responsive legislation.

         Women empowerment is not only about women in developing countries, it is about
women who are willing to become active members of the society. In developed countries
like Canada, women empowerment is the “Between Two Stops” project in Montreal. The
project provided increased mobility and sense of security to women in an urban
environment. It is the Housing Project By and For Women in Vienna Austria wherein a
section of the city of Vienna is designed exclusively by women architects and planners as
part of the urban expansion programme. In Germany, it is the Mother Centre International
Network which operates as a switchboard for information, skills, support and resources for
everyday life and survival issues. In developing countries, there is a huge volume of
materials on women empowerment,               most notable of which is the Community
Development Societies’ structure in Kerala, India. It has been documented as the most
innovative, community-based women-oriented initiative to fight poverty. Derived from the
Kudumbashree Mission, the CDS system has organized 169,000 poor urban women into
7,848 grassroot self-help groups. In the Philippines, several empowerment projects have
been designed, launched and implemented over the years, all aimed to empower women,
economically and socially. The Community Watch Against Domestic and Gender
Violence in Cebu City, Philippines is just one example.        Today, many microfinance
institutions in the Philippines have integrated women empowerment program as part of their
non-financial or complementary services to members or clients or borrowers. Activities to
support this have been integrated in MFI’s methodology, specifically happening during
center meetings or even outside the communities.

       For one, in re-designing its products and services while at the same time adopting a
market discipline and total quality customer care principle, ABS-CBN Bayan has launched
its Women Empowerment Project called Linang Bayan in June 2003. Fundraising to
support this initiative was done by maximizing its media resources. ABS-CBN Bayan
Foundation together with the other programs like Bantay Bata (Watch Against Child Abuse),

Bantay Kalikasan (Environment Watch) and Educational Television,                     launched an
international telethon to solicit financial support from the public; the first telethon generated
Ps. 10M to support Women Empowerment Project. The project started by training 4,000
women-microentrepreneurs on value formation (specifically focused on family wellness and
relationships), leadership (focused on conflict resolution) and business management (from
record keeping to marketing to networking). ABS-CBN Bayan tied up with the University of
the Philippines Institute for Small-Scale Industries for module development and training
implementation. Part of the training is to upgrade skills of clients on specific businesses;
Bayan partnered with Women’s Business Council of the Philippines and the Department of
Agriculture. These 4,000 trained women are supposed to become trainors who will later
cascade lessons learned to the other clients of the foundation. A separate fund is now
established to carry out activities that will further empower clients of Bayan. ABS-CBN
Bayan is increasingly involving its clients in re-designing and branding its financial and non-
financial products and services. The foundation is able to do advocacy work to push women
empowerment issues through its media resources such as television, radio and newspaper.
As a result, more private companies are getting interested in this activity. Colgate Palmolive
Philippines donated Ps. 12M to the foundation to support women empowerment. A grand
assembly of its clients will be launched on March 27 to highlight women-microentrepreneurs’
contribution in the economy. TV plugs focusing on client success stories will be shown the
entire month of March to support the theme Inspiring Hope and Possibility capping the
International Women’s Month. The aim of all these efforts is to build and strengthen
partnerships with civil society particularly women’s group or organization.

Here is one of the many stories of empowered women in microfinance..

Elnora Magante
45 years old
Furniture Maker & Fruit Dealer
Luisiana, Laguna

Due to poverty, Nora and husband Abner were forced to uproot their family from Masbate
and settle in Laguna. For a period of time the family relied on Abner’s income as carpenter to
finance their family’s expenses. To augment her husband’s income Nora decided to plant
                                        vegetables in their backyard and take care of fruit
                                        bearing trees so that during harvest, their family can
                                        consume half and sell the other half of the produce.
                                        Her first loans were used to buy and sell assorted
                                        fruits. But still the income from the new business was
                                        not enough to support four kids.

                                          From a friend, Mang Abner learned that there was
                                          money in driftwood – that they can make/ create
                                          furniture from its different pieces. Their fourth loan
was used as a starting capital for this new venture. This new business became a family
effort for them – everyone taking part in the creation of a unique furniture. Before they would
only display the furniture in front of their house and hoped that passers-by will be interested.
But due to the uniqueness of their products, furniture shops from Manila became interested.
Now the furniture are already pre-ordered.

Paper presented by IRMA L. COSICO, Operations Group Head of ABS-CBN Bayan
Foundation, Inc., Philippines to the Asia-Pacific Microcredit Summit, Dhaka,
Bangladesh, February 18, 2004.

Here are some stories of women who are rising out of poverty:

Editha M. Apit
48 years old
Food Business/ Sari-sari Store
Mapulang Lupa, Valenzuela

To support their brood of eight, Edith and her husband worked as a factory worker and
mason, respectively. However, due to the economic crisis of 1999, the company where
Edith worked was closed thereby forcing her to look for ways on how to augment her
husband’s income. Using a small table and a small area in front of her house, she started to
sell banana cue, kakanin, barbecue and camote cue.

With three more children to send to school, Edith was worried - the meager income of her
husband and the little profit of the store will never be enough. She was so excited when a
neighbor told her that ABS-CBN Bayan was offering
loans to poor but enterprising individuals. When
asked to group themselves, Edith spearheaded the
formation of their group and convinced her friends                                     that
was one opportunity too good to miss – a chance for
their business to grow.

Her first loan of Ps.3,000 was used to start a small
sari-sari store . More stocks were added to her small
store using the succeeding loans. She set aside some savings from the daily income and
later used this to buy cement which her husband used to build the store infrastructure. On
her fourth loan, she was able to buy and sell rice grains.

Her group members regard Edith as a very good and responsible buklod leader. She is very
conscientious of their payment dates and sees to it that every member pays on time.
For her children, Edith is a very responsible mother who has always put their needs first
before other things. She constantly reminds them how valuable education is and how they
must not let insufficient money get in the way of earning their degrees.

Leticia Armenta
48 years old
Bakery Owner
Luisiana, Laguna

July five years ago, Letty and her husband decided to quit their jobs in the city, settle in
Luisiana and start a bakery. This was a big decision for both husband and wife as they
gambled their small savings in this business venture.
With her husband as the master baker, both slaved night
and day producing and selling pan de sal and pastries in
their area. In the first few years, the business did not do
well but they continued to improve and diversify their
bakery products.

Her first loan of Ps. 5,000.00 was used to buy a dough
maker – making bread production easier and faster while at the same time maintaining

quality. Her next loans were used to purchase other bakery equipments like slide bread
roller, bread cutter, mixer, sealer, refrigerator, display cabinet and bakery supplies. She was
also able to change the bamboo slats holding the baked bread into stainless steel bars.

At present, Letty’s bakeshop in Luisiana, Laguna is one of the most patronized and popular
in the area. Her business strategy - low price but high quality breads. She employs two
bakers, stay-in bakery vendor, ambulant bread vendors but her husband still mixes the
ingredients for the bread at night.

Jovelyn Clemente
27 years old
Walis Tambo Maker, Stik-O and sardines wholesaler and retailer
Sitio Perry, Kumintang Ibaba, Batangas City

Coming from a brood of eight with no father to support them and marrying at the age of
sixteen, life for Joy has always been a constant struggle. Trying to make ends meet she
started her walis tambo business (while in Mindoro) for this was the only business that her
family knew. Her initial capital was taken from the family savings. After some time business
flourished and her capital grew to PhP20,000.00. But all of her efforts failed when her
partner embezzled most of their capital leaving her with only five thousand pesos to start

Joy and her husband came to a decision to start a new life in Batangas City. However, her
                           family’s first year in Batangas was even harder. They rented a
                           two-square meter kubo and with her Ps. 5,000 tried to buy and
                           sell walis tambo. She applied for a loan of Ps. 5,000.00 to
                           expand her walis business. She got all the materials from the
                           cheapest source of raw materials - Naguilan, Baguio. She boldly
                           asked the supplier if she could pay half of the raw materials in
                           cash and half in credit payable in two weeks time. She asked
                           her supplier to come with her to Batangas so that she will know
                           where to find her. She even gave the phone number of her
                           landlady to prove that she was serious in her proposal and that
she was a trustworthy person. This agreement forged the fruitful relationship of the two.

All other loans, thereafter were added to the capital. The demand for the product increased
until such time that she enlisted the help of her siblings in making the walis tambo. She is
now supplying the product to the whole of Batangas making the walis tambo at night,
delivering by foot in the morning and sourcing raw materials from Baguio, Romlon and
Mindoro. However, she discovered that during the rainy months demand for the product
decreased so she decided to look for another source of income for the low months. She then
noticed her children’s fondness for Stik-O’s wafer sticks. She decided to buy wholesale from
the factory, repacked and supply to stores in different markets. From the first delivery, the
demand for the product increased, so was her income. In one of her deliveries she
discovered that demand for sardines was also high. Upon securing the address of the
sardine’s supplier, she again ventured into this business which later on became a hit.

After one year of diversifying her business, she proudly recounts that she now lives in a two-
bedroom cemented house, owns two televisions, VHS player, two electric fans and employs
two house maids. She also employs her siblings and encourages them to have a business of
their own. Aside from saving for her two children’s education, she plans to buy a tricycle so
that she will have a service for her delivery.