A lot of women-centric and female-led microenterprise programs or microentreps for short, are all around the globe as part of the corporate social responsibility (CSR) set up of businesses, especially for banks.
However, all CSRs are not made equal. Some will inevitably stand out and are distinctive such as the ongoing female-led microentreps funding project of Standard Chartered Foundation of British bank Standard Chartered Bank Philippines (Stanchart).
Stanchart, which opened its first branch here in 1872, is the oldest foreign bank in the Philippines.
Launched last year, the project has assisted over 400 microentreps run by women by allowing them access to business funding and other interventions such as capacity-building and skills trainings, according to Mai Gacilo Sangalang, Stanchart Head of Corporate Affairs, Brand and Marketing.
Stanchart is not doing this alone and has partnered with one of the country’s largest microfinance institutions (MFI), Tulay sa Pag-Unlad Inc. (TSPI) as part of the bank’s post-pandemic initiative to support markets and local economies.
Sangalang told Manila Bulletin that the foundation has so far donated $300,000 or P17.1 million to TSPI for a two-year COVID-19 Recovery Program in the Philippines. This money microfinanced more than 400 women-led microentreps.
“The beneficiaries availed up to P200,000 depending on their financing needs,” said Sangalang.
She also said that the funds donated to the TSPI is designed to be a revolving fund. This is to allow the program to have a multi-year support to more women-led microentreps via re-availments to first batch program beneficiaries or new and additional TSPI clients.
“We have a sizeable number who have already taken their second loan cycle,” she said.
TSPI Executive Director Alice Cordero for her part, said that it has been their mission to “provide individuals, families and communities the opportunity to experience fullness of life through God-centered microenterprise development.”
“We are grateful for the chance to partner with SCB (Stanchart) so that we can help more young enterpreneurs in our Bicol branches through the Futuremakers Project. This continuing endeavour will truly inspire and empower more of our members to deepen their faith, dream bigger and work hard and better for their families and for their communities,” she said.
Sangalang said they had a lot of experience in funding microentreps. The bank’s history of support to women microentreps is a long one.
For example, in 2021, they launched their first project with 30 TSPI women microentreps to help them adopt digitalization in transactions specifically in loan payments and collection.
Also in 2021, the bank partnered with another MFI Alalay sa Kaunlaran Inc. (ASKI), and supported 20 women microentreps in the renewal energy adoption through solar electrification of their business sites for operational efficiency and resilience in calamity prone provinces of Nueva Ecija and Aurora Quezon.
This year, Stanchart has another program with ASKI to benefit an additional 15 women microentreps in the two provinces for renewal energy adoption.
In the months and years to come, Sangalang said Stanchart have other women-centric projects in the pipeline.
“The bank, through Standard Chartered Foundation, will continue similar initiatives to support young women-led microentrepreneurs through access to financing to help them start or scale up their microenterprises,” she told Manila Bulletin.
She noted that “aside from entrepreneurship, Futuremakers by Standard Chartered, the bank’s global initiative to promote greater economic inclusion in our markets, also supports disadvantaged young people to learn new skills and increase their chances of employability.”
In addition, in partnership with NGO Pampamilyang Paaralang Agrikultura Foundation Inc., the bank has donated a hydroponic greenhouse to the Balete Family Farm School located in Lipa, Batangas to serve as laboratory for innovative farming techniques for their women senior high school students.
“We also have an ongoing project with SOS Children’s Villages which helped more than 1,400 youth (male and female) by increasing their chances of getting employed through employability skills training, education, entrepreneurial training, digital upskilling, employment linkages etc.,” she said.
In a statement that the bank released on Oct. 4, Sangalang was mentioned as recently visiting women-led microentreps in the Bicol Region who are recipients of the COVID-19 Recovery Program with TSPI.
The project has given women with microbusinesses affordable funding to restore, diversify and expand. Some of the program recipients have re-availed and are now on their second, bigger loan cycle to further boost their business operations, said Stanchart.
To date, the bank continues to promote inclusivity across its markets through Futuremakers by Standard Chartered by tackling “inequality” by supporting the “disadvantaged youth, especially women, through initiatives anchored on the pillars of education, employability and entrepreneurship.”
Stanchart employees also conducted a learning session on product marketing and entrepreneurship to teach the beneficiaries how to build brand awareness, reach new markets and increase their sales, said Sangalang.
She said the bank “promotes economic inclusion and one of the most effective ways to do this is to support micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) which are the backbone of the Philippine economy.”
Sangalang said it has been “humbling” to witness how the project has helped female-led MSMEs and to “meet some of the young women entrepreneurs who turned adversity into opportunity during the pandemic … their stories of resilience and grit are truly inspiring.”