A woman-led Philippine company pioneers in Asia-Africa technology cooperation

photo for posting_july 16, 2015

A shipbuilding project in Ghana, West Africa, involving a woman-led Philippine company, has been implemented with the training of Ghanaians at a shipyard facility in General Santos City, Mindanao in Southern Philippines.

A first-ever interregional technical and economic cooperation, the project is a multi-party private sector initiative for the purpose of upgrading and modernizing the fishing industry in Ghana. The project was packaged by Rainbow Fish Consultants of the Netherlands, which was introduced by the Technological Information Promotion System to the Philippine fiberglass-hulled boat maker, Stoneworks Specialists International Corporation.

The initial discussion on the terms of cooperation and the subsequent negotiations resulted in an exchange visit of the principals of the major business partners from both the Philippines and Ghana. These activities culminated in the signing of an agreement at a ceremony held in Accra, Ghana, where major partners and associate partners were present to seal the arrangements for implementing the project. Participating in the implementation of the project are: DaySeaDay, which will export fish catch to Europe; SARFABLES (San Roque Fishermen Association/Bigkis Lakas Eastern Samar), which will train the Ghanaian fishermen; and a Ghanaian NGO, Gratis Foundation, which will recruit the shipyard personnel for training.

According to Stoneworks Chief Executive Officer / President Marilyn Ong, “the role of the Philippine company is to transfer the technology in building fiberglass-hulled fishing boats and to provide the skills in fishing operations. On the other hand, the role of the main Ghanaian partner, Inter-Seas Fisheries Ltd Ghana, is to help modernize the inland and marine fishing fleets and upgrade the fish processing industry in Ghana.”

“Together, these partners, along with associate partners, will engage in a major effort to address the need of the fishing industry in West Africa while contributing to environmental sustainability of the Ghanaian forests. It is noted that building of wooden dugout canoes in Ghana has taken a heavy toll on the forest resources of the country.”

“Under the project, it is envisaged that 9,000 wooden boats will be replaced within 5-6 years, with a projected replacement rate of 1,500 – 1,800 per year. For commercial fishing vessels, about 500 will be replaced with modern fishing vessels made of fiberglass, at a yearly construction rate of 30 – 40 trawlers,” Ms. Ong said.

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A success story: skills training brings hope, self-worth to women in rural communities

A success story_Skills training brings hope, self-worth to wrote to women in rural communities_January - February 2015_Caption

Busy with cross-stitch work, a group of mothers in their early twenties to late thirties engage in hush-hush talk about problems of family life and how they are coping with it. In the background, cries of babies being given nutrition care by visiting health workers distract the attention of mothers. Now and then, they cannot help but give a hand in pacifying the fretful children. Such is the scene of a typical day at the Children’s Clinic of Kasipagan, an association of mothers’ clubs in San Carlos City, Negros Occidental (Philippines).

For many women from these communities in once was land of sugar plantations, it means doing livelihood work while taking care of their little ones. Thanks to the leadership of June Villarante, the prime mover of Kasipagan, this has been made possible. Making the most of the time at home while attending to their young ones, mothers can produce something for which a market need can be identified. All it takes is the production skill to start with, and the support services to see the products through to its buyers. The latter is what June does as business manager and marketing agent of Kasipagan for the mothers/producers.

In the 1980s, sugar prices collapsed worldwide and spelled disaster for the sugar-producing provinces of Negros. Families were badly affected as the fathers/breadwinners soon found themselves without any incomes. Some of the unemployed men were able to eke out a living ferrying passengers in pedicabs, but the daily income was not enough for their families. Oftentimes, to augment the family income, the wives took jobs as laundrywomen, househelpers or caregivers in more affluent neighborhoods in the community. But such work took its toll as it kept the mothers away from their children who soon became malnourished, even sickly.

Desperate, various women’s groups or mother’s clubs banded together and sought help for their malnourished children. Thus, the San Carlos Children’s Clinic was established to give venue for extending much needed health care and nutrition supervision to children in these communities.

Someone suggested that some skills training be given to mothers who frequented the clinic. Since it had been established that the major cause of malnutrition in the communities was poverty, it was hoped that the mothers can gain from learning new skills, such as embroidery, and use this new skill to augment their families’ incomes.

“The Clinic has fully rehabilitated around 1,000 malnourished children to date. Of the mothers who went through the skills training on hand embroidery, 300 became the core producers of Kasipagan. Most of the products we make find demand from overseas buyers. It merely shows how competitive our cross-stitched products have become. For the women who broke into entrepreneurship, this means a lot, in terms of self-worth and confidence to face the future,” June Villarante reported.

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Local government units support women’s economic empowerment, small business start-ups

PhotoThe participation of local government in the economic empowerment of women, particularly in developing their capacity to engage in livelihood activities, is an important factor in building sustainable and transformative communities.

Women have embraced the triple bottomline concept in nurturing their small business start-ups, at the local level, and linking up with other like-minded individuals to introduce their products to larger markets.   These women form associations to improve their negotiating skills in dealing with financiers, buyers and suppliers.

In the training courses for women, WINNER has emphasized not just the financial benefits from business, but also their social and environmental responsibilities, which together characterize a transformative business venture.

WINNER-Philippines has conducted over fifty training sessions in various localities around the country, in partnership with selected local government units. These directly benefited thousands of women in rural and depressed urban communities.

The local government plays an important role in these training programs as they provide the logistical resources, physical venue and facilities and even resources for mobilizing, and sponsoring qualified  women to participate in the capacity-building exercises on such subject  as enterprise-creation, availing themselves of trade opportunities and reaching markets as well as e-commerce tools.

Some of the local government units that joined hands with WINNER along with local people’s organizations of women are: Meycauyan (Bulacan), Buhi ( Camarines Sur), La Trinidad (Benguet), Sta Barbara (Iloilo), Kabacan (N. Cotabato), Sorsogon City (Sorsogon), San Pablo (Laguna), Batangas City (Batangas), Las Pinas  (National Capital Region) Tagbilaran (Bohol), Santiago (Isabela), among others.

From the start of WINNER in 2000 up to present, more than 12,000 women from Asian and African countries participating in the UN Women-sponsored program received technical assistance and guidance in developing their enterprises as well as in gaining access to trade opportunities. Some 10,000 women’s products are currently promoted through web portals.

 

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Information communication technology keeps women in micro, small enterprises engaged in markets

Cover PhotoA number of women in micro and small enterprises from selected developing countries across Asia have realized life-changing results from their involvement in the economic empowerment global project of Unifem (now UN Women).

The project has provided training courses on enterprise management, international trade practices and e-commerce as well as customized assistance to women entrepreneurs seeking business contacts outside their domestic markets.

The project called WINNER (Women into the New Network for Entrepreneurial Reinforcement) has received numerous letters of compliments and critical views on the project going forward to the next stage.  Experience of these women-beneficiaries has been documented and compiled in a monograph prepared by Devnet, the project execution agency tasked by Unifem (UN Women)/UNDP.

Researchers-writers were commissioned to interview a random sampling of women-micro entrepreneurs in the local communities.  Their stories gave insightful information on how they as start-up business people in their communities,      grew their business ventures and used the Internet to find new markets.

Some testimonial letters received from the women-beneficiaries of the WINNER project  revealed interesting breakthroughs for them in reaching distant contacts and clients.  Some excerpts of these business letters are:

We have been benefited with new skills when we took part in the training organized by WINNNER in Zimbabwe.  Since then we have managed to improve our business linkages though the Internet…. Now my company is doing business with a partner in India…

I am one of the rural women who took part in the e-commers training held in Mountain Province (Philippines) a couple of years ago.  I remember the advice of the WINNNER trainor who encouraged me to introduce my products to the international market by using the internet and sending my product and business profiles for inclusion in electronic market place of WINNER.  Indeed after several months, an importer from Australia tapped my company to supply its requirements…

My association with WINNER has provided me an opportunity to establish business contacts in Eastern Europe, particularly Bulgaria and Georgia. Later, through WINNER, I was introduced to business contacts in Ivory Coast and Ghana, with the assistance of a Dutch organization that was  collaborating with WINNER… 

 

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Filipino women bat for sustainable agriculture through research and development

Women in farming communities and leaders from various sectors of Philippine society recently joined an open dialogue on the role of women and their contribution in agriculture.  Theme of exchange of ideas and experiences was “Women in Rice Farming”. The dialogue was one of various activities lined up for the celebration of the National Year of Rice 2013.

Among those who attended the program to share their experiences and insights were last year’s awardees in the search for outstanding women in rural development.

The International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) along with the Philippine Department of Agriculture and the Philippine Commission on Women have joined efforts in advancing women’s role in fighting hunger and malnutrition and promoting environmental sustainability through research and technology development and improved farming practices.

Rice affects the lives of people, in particular the hundreds of millions living in rural areas around the country.   Rice production provides staple food, livelihood and income for poor rice-farming communities.

The event also showcased to members of media and representatives of civil society organizations the research and development breakthroughs of IRRI in developing rice varieties that grow well in harsh conditions. Featured was its latest rice variety called “golden rice” which has been found to be rich in beta-carotene, iron and zinc.

In the Philippines, vitamin A deficiency affects approximately 1.7 million children and one out of every ten pregnant women. Golden rice variety shows a potential way to reduce malnutrition.

According to the United Nations Food Agriculture Organization, women play an important role in supporting their households and communities as well as in achieving food and nutrition security. They also contribute to the local economy through their agri-enterprises.

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Philippines is Asia’s best performer in closing gender gap, ranks 5th in the world

The Philippines is Asia’s best performing country in closing gender disparity this year, according to the 2013 Global Gender Gap Report.

Previously in eighth position, the Philippines has climbed to fifth spot besting other Asian and non-Asian countries.

Iceland remains at the top while Finland placed at the second spot. The remaining top countries are as follows: Norway (3rd), Sweden (4th), Philippines (5th), Ireland (6th), New Zealand (7th), Denmark (8th), Switzerland (9th) and Nicaragua (10th).

According to World Economic Forum (WEF), this is the first time the Philippines entered the top five list of countries “due to small improvements in the Economic Participation and Opportunity subindexes.”

The report furthers that the Philippines ranked 10th on the Political Empowerment subindex and “remains the highest-ranking country from Asia in the Index. Philippines is the only country in Asia and the Pacific that has fully closed the gender gap in both education and health.”

The country garnered 0.783 points, higher than 2012’s 0.776 and 2011’s 0.7685.

The Philippine Commission on Women (PCW), the lead policy-making and coordinating body on women and gender equality concerns, is elated that its efforts are now paying off.

The collective hard work of government agencies, non-government and civil society organizations, academe and various stakeholders proves that the country indeed is recognizing and valuing women as active drivers of development.

“Though this improvement in rank reflects that gender disparities are narrowing, we cannot be overconfident because the index does not show overall development levels which are still wanting”, the PCW said.

“Efforts to keep children in school, to expand economic opportunities for women and increase women’s participation in decision-making positions need to be accelerated and sustained in all spheres of society as stated in the Philippines Magna Carta of Women”.

Recent trend showed an increased number of women winning in the last elections. There are six women senators out of 24 and 79 women legislators in the House of Representatives, while 647 women occupy third level positions as opposed to 749 men.

 

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Nepalese women garner volume sales at handicraft expo

Pooling their efforts to stage the biggest ever and the best handicraft product exposition, women in micro and small enterprises in Nepal recently held a five-day trade event to cap a year-long series of activities.

In 2012, women in Nepal participated in various products shows around the country and in trade expositions in the South Asian region.

For the outstanding participation of women entrepreneurs, accolade was accorded them, resulting in robust sales and volume of pledged orders during the year-ender product show. This was acknowledged by Nepal’s Finance Minister Barsha Man Pun, when he extolled the outstanding efforts of Nepalese women during his speech at the opening ceremonies.

Among the product bestsellers at the trade event were: woolens, silk garments, handlooms, toys, natural dyes, pashminas, holiday ornaments, shawls, baby stuffs, candles, felt products, table mats, embroideries, teas, rugs and carpets.

The women’s enterprises that took center stage at the product exposition were joined by non-government organizations that champion social entrepreneurship. Two of the prominent NGOs were: Women for Human Rights and Entire Power in Social Action. These groups exhibited the best products from their respective beneficiaries and constituents. These included: various herbal teas, nettle and cotton bags, bed sheets, table cloths and gift items for all occasions.

The positive reaction of buyers and visitors at the trade event was such that some of the women entrepreneurs were practically guaranteed orders to last throughout 2013.

WINNER-Nepal has been very active in improving the capacity of women in micro and small enterprises by conducting skills training, marketing seminars and various capacity-building forums. Some of these training programs centered on quality management, access to markets, use of information technology tools, cooperation and competition, among others. These activities were jointly conducted with cooperation partners, particularly the Women Entrepreneurship Development Forum of the Federation of Nepalese Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

 

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Bangladeshi women achievers picked for international leadership program

Beyond the confines of their businesses, some women in Bangladesh have pursued the opportunity to extend their reach and scope of influence on their communities, with the view to contributing to social transformation.

From individual businesswomen to social entrepreneurs, they shared their time, knowledge, experience and expertise with other women in their communities to transform communities into collective enterprises.  For this innovation, these women have gained the recognition from their counterparts in developed countries, particularly the United States of America.

Recently, eight women from Bangladesh, including members of the WINNER-Bangladesh, were selected to be part of the international leadership program, an intensive month-long training of women leaders, under the sponsorship of the State Department of the Government of the United States of America.

These women were joined by their counterparts from various women’s organizations in the United States to exchange ideas, engage in business model exercises as well as explore future business ventures. In the course of their training, the Bangladesh women visited various cities from the east coast through the Midwest and to the west cost of the United States of America.

The places visited by the women during the roving training program include: Washington, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Kansas City, New York and Virginia. They also sat down with their counterparts and officials/leaders from Meridian International Center, Community Wealth Ventures, Hope Center, Women’s Initiatives, Working Women’s Solutions, Small Business Administration, Global Fund for Women, Future Women Leaders, and Women Ventures Fund, among others.

During their training, the women had the opportunity to explore business ventures, promote their products, participate in business match-making sessions and close business deals.

The women –members of WINNER-Bangladesh who took part in the US-sponsored international leadership training include: Shahina Habib Dhobi, Sumaya Akter, Sabera Begum, Barnaby Chowdhury Lopa and Regina Begum.

In Bangladesh, women’s literacy rates remain much lower than that of men. While ever increasing numbers of women workers are entering the labour force, particularly in the micro and small-scale enterprises and informal sectors, women continue to face discrimination and dominate low paying jobs. Nevertheless, women’s initiatives in the production and trade fields represent a vital economic resource.

WINNER project is working to support Bangladeshi women entrepreneurs’ access to and knowledge of information and communication technologies.

 

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Product design clinics level up capacity of women’s enterprises for market competitiveness

In a highly competitive marketplace, product brand identity creates an edge over other products. In many cases, the identity results from an innovative process that brings out the commercial appeal of the product to buyers. Concept, eco-friendly material, craftsmanship, price and production consistency combine to make the product a cut above the rest.

Aware of the need of microenterprises to have a fighting chance in the global marketplace, the Philippine Commission on Women recently launched a nationwide drive to help women’s microenterprises level-up their capacity to come up with products that are world class in design and quality. Through its GREAT Women (Gender Responsive Economic Actions for the Transformation of Women) Project, it engaged the cooperation of ECHOSI (Enabling Communities with Hope and Opportunities Sustainable Initiatives) Foundation to field to various regions around the country a team of product design consultants.

GREAT Women is a 5-year project which aims to support and promote the economic well-being of women through increased access to training, credit, technology and microenterprises. It is supported by the Canadian government through the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) with a grant to the Philippine Commission on Women.

Intensive product design clinics drew women in micro/small enterprises to take advantage of the expertise and experience of world-class product designers who volunteered their talents and time to help women entrepreneurs embrace the innovation process in product creation and production.

The design clinics are interactive sessions that include discussion of the elements of product design, factors of market appeal of products as well as critique of products of women’s enterprises, with  the view to giving them strong brand identity and attraction to buyers. The inaugural design clinic was held in Lucena City, Province of Quezon and subsequent design clinics will be conducted in Camarines Sur, Bohol, Leyte, Davao, North Cotabato and Ifugao Province. These locations have been pre-identifical as areas where there is abundance of unique raw materials for products, concentration of women in micro/small enterprises as well as potentials for product brand identify take off.

To enter new markets, women’s micro/small enterprises must focus on consistent high product quality as well as strong and reliable production capacity. Once products are viable in the market, easily microfinance for capital becomes available to help these women’s enterprises scale up their business, increase earnings and attain financial freedom. Among the important topics taken up during the clinics are: eco-friendly packaging, price competitiveness, continuing research and development (innovation) as well as keeping abreast of developments in the marketplace and trends in buyers’ preferences.

Present at the launching of the first of roving product design clinics were: designers Jeannie Javelosa and Tess Pasola, former Ambassador Romy Manalo, Imelda Canuela of ECHOSI Foundation, Pablito Budoy of the Department of Trade and Industry and Jenny Ann Nabia of the Department of Science and Technology.

 

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Bangladeshi women rediscover market opportunities for business sustainability

Regional cooperation through business exchange and sharing of economic benefits has surged in some parts of the world, particularly in South Asia. This has deepened the spirit of cooperation and interdependence among players in filling consumer needs where supply is short from one country but substantial from a neighboring country.

Recently, a major trade fair sponsored by SAARC (South Asia Association for Regional Cooperation), an economic forum of the countries in the South Asia region, drew producers, suppliers, wholesalers and retailers and various industry leaders to a common venue for starting direct contact and negotiation with their counterparts for business relations. Women entrepreneurs from Bangladesh were among the exhibitors in the fair.

Women who belong to the WINNER-Bangladesh network took advantage of the opportunity to reinvigorate business relations with markets closer to home, even as their traditional markets overseas are shrinking due to economic troubles spawned by the global economic crisis.

The women leaders who participated in the 9th SAARC Trade Fair in Lyonpo Khandu Mangchuk, Bhutan are: Tahmina Khan, Sharmin Ahmed, Rabiya Mahfuj, Parveen Hossain, Alfroza Sultana, Barnaly Chowdhury Lopa, Sonia Hoque, Latifa Akter Lata, Mazeda Khatun and Naharih Chowdhury. These women are makers and exporters of home textiles, imitation jewelry, jute products, handicrafts and garments, among others.

WINNER-Bangladesh has been conducting various training courses for existing women’s businesses as well as women who are planning to go into business. The training curriculum covers various aspects of improving business sustainability as well as modern business practices and information and communication technology tools.

According to WINNER-Bangladesh Director Dil Alfroze, the WINNER project has provided new skills to women and strengthened their capacities to sustain their businesses.

“Our training courses for these women have prepared them to compete in the marketplace and equipped them with the tools to sustain the growth of their businesses. Many of these women have contributed to the improvement of the conditions of life, for themselves and their employees, as they have attained financial independence,” she said.

“While ever increasing numbers of women are entering the labor force, particularly in the micro and small-scale enterprises and informal sectors, women continue to face discrimination and dominate low-paying jobs. Nevetheless, women’s initiatives in the production and trade fields have been recognized as these represent a vital economic resource.”

WINNER Project was launched in Bangladesh in 2001. The training cycles included basic computer skills, Internet/e-commerce, entrepreneurial management, fair trade practices, business documentation, export procedures, among others. The women who are participating in  the project have produced impressive results. Women home workers have become formal business women, obtaining trade licenses and certificates.

 

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