Micro-credit saves battered wife, farmworker

Oct 2006
Philippines , October, 23 2006 - What do a battered wife and a female farm worker have in common? They both overcame adversity through the help of a project patterned after the Grameen Bank.

Virgie Navarro Borde, 51, and Emma Morales, 45, were living in poverty, until they availed of Project Dungganon's loan facility.

Virgie and Emma are just two of the thousands of success stories produced through Project Dungganon, started in 1989 in Negros Occidental by the Negros Women for Tomorrow Foundation Inc., thanks to the vision of Nobel Peace Prize winner Muhammad Yunus and the Negrenses who replicated it in this part of the world.

The two are also Citibank's "Micro-Entrepreneur of the Year" national awardees. Virgie won her award in 2005 and Emma in 2002.

Virgie was a battered wife and a jobless mother of four when her husband left her in 1987. Virgie, who lives in Bago City 21.5 kilometers south of here, said her husband maltreated her when the latter was drunk. When her husband went to Jeddah to work as a carpenter, he did not send her any money. She latter remarried to Abelardo Galleto, 50, a polio victim who was unable to earn a living.

Virgie recalled that they lived in a small shanty built over a canal of an irrigation system in the village Malingin, Bago City.

With very little capital, Virgie struggled as a fish vendor until she heard of Project Dungganon in 2003 and joined the group. After attending the seminars, Virgie availed of a P5,000 loan. With her business thriving, Virgie took out more loans to start a small convenience store and buy a hand tractor that she rented out.

Today, she owns seven hand tractors and two rice threshers that she rents out, a house-and-lot and a 1.5-hectare farm.

She also owns a van that her son, Antonio, uses to deliver grocery goods they sell to small stores in Bago City. Two of her children are in college while one is in high school.

Emma and her husband Gerardo did backbreaking work planting rice in Manapla town, 44.7 kilometers north of here, to earn their daily wages in 1987. They were so poor she left her children with sliced sugarcane to chew on while she and her husband were at work in the rice fields, Emma recalled.

"My son, who gathered scraps for pigs, one day came home and said the scraps he gathered still looked good enough to eat," she says, "so I cooked the scraps again so we could have something to eat."

Emma's family, who lived in a small hut made of coconut fronds, did not have food to eat three times a day. "Life was difficult until 1989 when I discovered Project Dunganon and availed of a P1,000 loan to start a small business," she said.

She started selling candies and other items targeting the students of the Manapla Elementary School. Latter, she branched out into selling arroz caldo, cosmetic and plastic ware products. The Morales family now owns an eatery, a grocery and a motorcycle repair shop, and they raise hogs.

Her son Tootsie, who many years back brought home scraps for pigs for them to eat, is now 26 and a mechanical engineer working for a sugar mill while her daughter Jennifer, 24, has a degree in education.

Project Dungganon was patterned after Yunus' Grameen Bank, providing micro credit to the poor, especially women, to give them a chance to better their lives.

When the "People Power" uprising forced Ferdinand Marcos into exile, businessman Daniel Lacson Jr. was appointed governor of Negros Occidental. Lacson, having heard of the work of Yunus, sent then Negros Occidental Board Member Cecile del Castillo, executive director of NWTFI, to Bangladesh to learn about the Grameen Bank. Del Castillo's task was to replicate the program in Negros, which was then reeling from a drop in sugar prices and coping with a widespread malnutrition problem.

In 1989, with a grant of P5 million from the Canadian International Development Agency and P1 million from the provincial government, the NWTFI began Project Dungganon to help the poor women of Negros. Dungganon is a Hiligaynon word for "honorable," which reflects the recognition of a people's right and capacity to achieve a sense of nobility on their own resolve, Del Castillo said.

In the first four years, they provided loans to 7,000 women in Negros. Today they have 74,448 loan beneficiaries not only in Negros Occidental but also in Negros Oriental, Cebu, Palawan, Samar, Leyte and Bohol, NWTFI chairperson Wilhelmina Gonzales said.

NWTFI now owns a five-story building that houses the Dungganon Bank Inc., a microfinance thrift bank in Bacolod City. It has P801.4 million in disbursements and a loan portfolio of P378.8 million, as of August this year, Gonzalez added.

The NWTFI serves 74,448 women and has a loan repayment rate of 96 to 97 percent, NWTFI researcher Gilbert Maramba said.

Maramba noted that 52 percent of their clients of more than five years have had upward movement in their lives, and 29 percent of those classified as very poor are no longer very poor.

"Our mission is to bring the message of hope - to alleviate women out of poverty and to bring back dignity to their lives," Gonzales said. "It's not just money that we lend to this women. They are taught values that they must live by in order to avail of loans and succeed."

Source : INQ7.net

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