NEWS FEATURE: March 22 confab on ‘Maria for MDGs’ Mindanao’s women use enterprises to meet MDGs

RURAL women entrepreneurs from six Mindanao municipalities have invaded Manila and say how they they have met some of the Millennium Development Goals that handicap many Filipinas.

These women are newly-trained entrepreneurs from Misamis Oriental, Davao del Sur, Zamboanga del Sur and North Cotabato provinces, and they’re running months-old enterprises that a 20-month project hoped will address four of the eight MDGs.

Six women from around 335 entrepreneurs shared in a March 22 conference at the Ateneo de Manila University-School of Government how a project, called Maria 4 MDGs, made it possible for them to slowly meet their economic needs.

These women come from Magsaysay, Alubijid and Claveria towns in Misamis Oriental, Dumingag in Zamboanga del Sur, M’lang in North Cotabato and Bansalan, Davao del Sur —all beneficiaries of the Maria 4 MDGs project run by a consortium of non-government organizations in the Philippines, a Filipino organization and a Dutch development group based in the Netherlands.

Last March 22, the women and representatives of their hometowns’ local government officials have shared how these enterprises have elicited support from local government leaders, local women associations, rural banks, cooperatives, and even overseas Filipinos in some European countries.

As of the end of 2010, these women from the six municipalities have set up a total of 14 enterprises thanks to total start-up capital worth PhP1.526 million. All these enterprises thus far earn monthly profits of at least PhP201,100.

Some of these enterprises include a corn shelling business in Claveria, feed production in Magsaysay, and herbal processing in Dumingag.

But more than the profits earned by these rural women entrepreneurs, the Maria 4 MDGs project have trained them gender sensitivity prior to giving them enterprise development training and financial support, says project coordinator Basco Fernandez of the Damayang Pilipino sa Nederland.

Fernandez also reported that these women, with the help of NGO partners in Manila and in Mindanao, have been linked to local rural banks and cooperatives so that they and their enterprises build capital and access business advisory services and enterprise loans.

Maria 4 MDGs is funded by the Joint Migration and Development Initiative (JMDI) programme of the European Commission and the United Nations Development Programme, and the four MDGs.

While conducting the project, Maria 4 MDGs project implementers also stumbled upon families of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) from the project sites and implementers have conducted financial literacy activities for them.

But as these rural women entrepreneurs are ready to share their experiences running their enterprises, they hope that their local leaders and other interested government, non-government, and private institutions will help them sustain their entrepreneurial activities.

Maria 4 MDGs is being co-implemented by Netherlands-based groups Damayang Pilipino sa Netherlands and Centrum voor International Samenwerking (COS)-Utrecht; the Economic Resource Center for Overseas Filipinos (ERCOF) in Manila; JEP Consultants and Trainers in Cagayan de Oro City; and Habagat Partnership and Networking Initiatives for Development (HAPNID) in Bansalan, Davao del Sur.

Maria 4 MDGs sought to address the following MDGs: MDG 1—eradicate extreme poverty and hunger; MDG 2—achieve universal primary education; MDG 3—promote gender equality and empower women; and MDG 8—develop a global partnership for development.#