Makati, Philippines, 1 March 2022 – The Foundation for a Sustainable Society, Inc. (FSSI) joined the Investing in Women’s SMEs for Philippines’ Economic Recovery media conference to celebrate the first anniversary of the the Responsive Interventions Supporting (women) Entrepreneurs (RISE) Fund on March 1, 2022, at the Manila Peninsula.
The RISE Fund is supported by the Australian Government, through its Investing in Women (IW) Initiative, and the Macquarie Group Foundation, the philanthropic arm of the Macquarie Group as a response to offset the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and catalyze much needed capital for women’s small and medium enterprises (SMEs).
The event was attended by His Excellency Steven J. Robinson AO, Australian Ambassador to the Philippines, Ms. Susan Clear, Director of the Macquarie Group Foundation in Asia, Mr. Eric Yaptangco, Division Director, Manila Technology and Office Head of the Macquarie Group, representatives of the project’s two local impact investors, FSSI and InBEST Ventures, and women entrepreneurs from SMEs receiving support from the project.
To date, the RISE Fund has supported 13 women SMEs through financial and non-financial means, providing 1,068 quality jobs and expand economic opportunities through business growth. These SMEs operate in urban and rural markets, and in sectors traditionally dominated by men such as agriculture, technology and infrastructure, and fisheries and poultry.
In his welcome address, Ambassador Robinson shared that a total of Php 195 million investments from the RISE Fund and the private sector have been deployed for business expansion in the country. “This investment sought to improve women’s access to, control over, and ownership of productive assets which are vital for women’s economic empowerment,” he said.
FSSI Trustee and Treasurer Ms. Christie Rowena “Tetay” Plantilla, who is also Chief Executive Officer of the Federation of People’s Sustainable Development Cooperative (FPSDC), and entrepreneurs and cooperative leaders Ms. Maria Teresa Geniston of the Fatima Multi-Purpose Cooperative (Fatima MPC) of Leyte province and Ms. Elreca Fe Varga of the People Sustainable Consumer Cooperative (PSCC) of Cagayan de Oro City joined other investors and women SMEs for the panel discussion during the media conference.
“As an impact investor, our role is largely to create partnerships to better support enterprises through the pandemic. It is now very important to develop innovative mechanisms in the delivery of financial products, that are particularly suited to the needs of partner women’s social enterprises,” Ms. Plantilla noted during the discussion.
FSSI has collaborated with member organization FPSDC for a co-investment arrangement to reach out to rural enterprises under the IW Project. Fatima MPC and PSCC are among the women-owned and led enterprises supported by FSSI and FPSDC.
Ms. Varga shared that the support from the RISE Fund through FSSI and FPSDC is “a dream come true” for their cooperative. While their isolated locale in the Cagayan de Oro has allowed them to maintain zero COVID-19 cases, the lockdown and travel restrictions delayed the implementation of their coconut sugar enterprise. FPSDC provided the processing facilities and equipment for the project, and assisted the cooperative in accessing working capital to start their production. “We have the facilities and equipment from FPSDC, but we lacked working capital as our counterpart. That is where FSSI and the Investing in Women project came in. Now, it might have been delayed, but we have started the project in the third quarter of 2021 and we are producing a half ton of coco sugar a month. We are able to employ 25 people and we are ready to market our products.”
Meanwhile, Ms. Geniston thanked FSSI and FPSDC for their support and encouraged more investors to come in. Fatima MPC has a unique role, balancing financial aspect and social responsibility in their community. During the lockdown, they were able to distribute food packs and hygiene kits to their members, and to continue providing services to their members and their families despite the restrictions. She said that with investments coming in, their cooperative will continue striving to improve the socio-economic condition of their members and community.
Ms. Varga echoed the call for more investments for women SMEs. “Women are focused, determined. In most challenges, we sustain. It makes good business sense to invest in women.”