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USAID Shares Lessons in Women’s Financial Inclusion in Global Learning Forum

A Philippine delegation of gender champions shared lessons learned from empowering women through entrepreneurship in the Philippines during the Women’s Economic Empowerment Global Learning Forum held on May 23-25, 2017 in Bangkok, Thailand.

Organized by the Small Enterprise Education and Promotion (SEEP) Network, the forum focused on the themes of empowerment of poor rural women, employment opportunities through enterprise development, and job creation and women’s financial inclusion. Gender Specialist Ma. Gichelle Cruz of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Strengthening Urban Resilience for Growth with Equity (SURGE) Project, who was part of the delegation, joined participants from 61 countries in identifying solutions to systemic barriers to scalable and sustainable change in women’s economic empowerment.

Ms. Cruz chaired the interactive peer learning session on Bridging Gaps and Challenges in Women’s Financial Inclusion – The Philippine Experience. She led the discussion on challenges and good practices in promoting women entrepreneurship as an effective mechanism to address gendered economic inequalities with fellow Filipinos Patrick Henry Asiñero, Assistant Project Manager of the Supporting Women’s Economic Empowerment in the Philippines Project or GREAT Women Project 2, and Primar Jardeleza, Vice President of the Pambansang Kalipunan ng mga Manggagawang Impormal sa Pilipinas (PATAMABA), Inc.

“I learned a lot from the great work of women empowerment in the Philippines helping women scale up from the value chain. It is very inspiring, very exciting and very practical,” said Jonathan Burton, Head of Programs – South East Asia at CUSO International.

The Philippines presents an interesting case of women entrepreneurship. 80 percent of micro, small and medium enterprises in the country were started by women. A similar trend can be observed in the microfinance sector, where over 80 percent of active borrowers are women who use the capital to grow their businesses.

From the experience of PATAMABA, women in the informal sector earned the trust of microfinance institutions because they are good borrowers who regularly pay their . Although more Filipino women own businesses as compared to men, these women entrepreneurs are often resource-poor and struggle in obtaining initial capital investment and accessing institutional financial support.

The panel identified promising approaches to improving women’s access to financial services.  Developing the financial literacy of women entrepreneurs with learning resources and community-based training in regional languages can improve the competitiveness and sustainability of their businesses. Women at the grassroots level gain more access to additional capital through community organizing, savings mobilization schemes, and indigenous social protection strategies. In addition to these alternative channels, building social capital and linking women entrepreneurs with financial institutions increases their visibility and bankability with the formal credit market.

After this international forum, the Philippine delegation will organize follow-up discussions in Manila to explore opportunities for partnership among the public and private sector, civil society, and academia to support women’s entrepreneurship.

Through the SURGE Project, USAID supports partner cities outside Metro Manila to fulfill their potential as engines of inclusive and resilient economic growth. As part of its work to improve connectivity and access between urban and rural areas, the project is facilitating market linkages that will provide more opportunities for women-owned businesses.

The session is a breather. I learned a lot from the great work of women empowerment in the Philippines helping women scale up from the value chain. It is very inspiring, very exciting and very practical. Thank you very much.”

– Jonathan Burton, Head of Programs – South East Asia, CUSO International