Philippines: Oikocredit, ASKI, NWTF

See Oikocredit Report: Bridging the Gender Gap…. At Home Newsletter June 2019

Bridging the Gender Gap in Responsible Finance

Bridging the Gender Gap in Responsible Finance is a pilot project funded by Church of Sweden and implemented by Oikocredit and two partners in Philippines: Negros Women for Tomorrow Foundation (NWTF) and  Alalay Sa Kaunlaran Sa Gitnang Luzon Inc. (ASKI) to adapt FALS methodology for gender mainstreaming in their micro-finance product and service delivery.

  • Oikocredit is committed to promotion of responsible finance that is both financially sustainable and client-centric to improve social outcomes for the poor. A particular focus is on providing women with access to credit, combined with offers women finance literacy, self-development, and governance skills, in order to reduce their personal vulnerability at the same time increase their country’s development prospects. For more about Oikocredit see Oikocredit International website and gender initiatives.
  •  Alalay Sa Kaunlaran Sa Gitnang Luzon Inc. (ASKI) is a microfinance institution launched in 1987 to provide financial services and training in a number of provinces in the northern Philippines.
  • Negros Women for Tomorrow Foundation (NWTF) NWTF was founded in 1984 and registered in 1986 to help women achieve self-sufficiency and self-reliance, particularly in Negros Occidental’s low-income and depressed rural communities. For details of NWTF and profiles of NWTF clients see: NWTF websiteDungganon and women’s empowerment, From sari sari store to  multi-family business and Angelita’s story. 

Why Bridging the Gender Gap?

Although the overwhelming majority of clients are women, and there are numerous client success stories, wealth creation and empowerment in poor and disadvantaged communities are ongoing processes. For very many clients these gender inequalities continue to constrain both development of their businesses, and the degree to which they benefit from their hard work.

There have been a number of studies of impact of micro-finance in Philippines:

Impact of Microcredit in Philippines Poverty Action

Effect of Microfinance Operations on Poor Rural Households and the Status of Women ADB Evaluation 2007

Microcredit in Theory and Practice: Using Randomized Credit Scoring for Impact Evaluation Dean Karlan and Jonathan Zinman

Making Microfinance More Effective Dean Karlan, Rebecca Mann, Jake Kendall, Rohini Pande, Tavneet Suri, Jonathan Zinman, 2016

Addressing gender inequalities benefits not only women, but also men through empowering them to challenge negative aspects of male gender roles that lead to violence, wasteful expenditure, addictions, other health problems and hence cause a great deal of unhappiness for all concerned. Addressing gender issues both of clients and staff will have positive benefits for the MFI, not only their social mission, but also sustainability, profitability and hence longer term expansion.

Moreover in the wider context of gender policy in Philippines:

Bridging the Gender Gap Aims and Activities

The BGG project adapted and piloted  Financial Action Learning System methodology (FALS) for mainstreaming client empowerment and gender equity in their micro-finance product and service delivery.

FALS aims to strengthen empowerment potential of existing financial and business training and mainstream gender in the design of the products and services of the institution, as well as improving the FI policies and practices in the context of responsible inclusive finance. Expected outcomes are that:

  • Clients have a life planning and financial empowerment methodology that they can share with others in their families and communities to increase benefits from FSP products and services and help the FSP expand to new reliable clients.
  • MFI has participatory tools to develop more empowering products and services for its clients, especially with poor women, on an ongoing basis as new needs arise
  • MFI has a Road Map to mainstream gender empowerment into their credit policy / strategy policy and product development towards improving SPM across their areas of operation.

Activities on the ground began at the end of August 2017 after a lead-in period of preparation and communication with partners. This report presents lessons learned as result of activities in the 6 months September 2017 to March 2018 in the pilot phase tracking progress in terms of business/loan performance, gender changes and peer upscale-sharing from around 20 champions in a small area in each partner MFI. Activities focused on:

  • adaptation of FALS client empowerment tools from PALS and GALS tools used in NGOs, cooperatives and MFIs in Africa, South Asia and Latin America to the socio-economic and MFI context in Philippines.
  • capacity-building, implementation and support for an initial core of 41 ‘champions’ including those from very challenging backgrounds to use and share the tools
  • capacity-building for integration of the client empowerment tools into the MFI loan management process and other client and staff capacity building
  • identifying economic empowerment issues arising and adaptation of the FALS client empowerment tools to the socio-economics and MFI context in Philippines.
  • identifying the gender and client empowerment issues emerging, particularly blockages and leverage points in terms of power relations and inequalities at household, market, institutional and macro-levels.
  • drafting a ‘Gender Road Map’ for gender policy at MFI-level to be implemented by ASKI.
  • production of a toolkit and other resources based on the pilot to guide further upscaling and replication.

FALS Toolkit and outcomes

The FALS Toolkit developed for Philippines consisted of 7 tools as a cumulative process:

  • gender empowerment catalyst tools (2): Vision Journey and Happy Family Tree
  • economic empowerment advanced tools (3): Financial Empowerment Map, Business Challenge Action Tree and Financial Management calendar
  • organisational gender review and planning tools (2): Gender Empowerment Diamond and Empowerment Vision Highway

See: Bridging the Gender Gap FALS Toolkit

Clients report significant improvements through using the tools in their planning and businesses, savings and loan repayments and expenditure on house improvements, health and family wellbeing. Most of the clients’ Financial Management Calendar targets are achieved. There have been improvements in gender relations in the household in terms of more equitable division of labour, investment in labour-saving equipment, shared decision-making. Women reported greater confidence in the community. From the original 42 clients by March 2018 peer sharing had reached 1098 clients (ASKI 276 and NWTF 822) and community members with one or more of the tools in the targeted barangays.  Most champions are willing to continue sharing with others.

Empowerment Mainstreaming and challenges

There have been significant steps in mainstreaming the client empowerment methodology. ASKI has now started using the Financial Management Calendar in their loan applications. They have also made initial steps and a plan for their Gender in Responsible Finance Road Map. NWTF have harmonized the FMC with the cash flow analysis that is used in Loan Applications for individual clients. ASKI has also started to implement a FALS-based Organisational Gender Road Map for Responsible Finance:

For background and resources links see:

Gender Mainstreaming in Financial Services

This is not to say that there have not been challenges. The piloting has led to significant modification of the original tools to respond more closely to client priorities. The client empowerment tools need to be used for at least one loan cycle with time for client peer sharing and upscaling before they can be fully adapted to any one MFI context for integration into SPM and product innovation and service delivery. The tools also need to be used for several cycles by clients as a progressive deepening of learning how to grow their business and make best use of loans for growth and deepening awareness and ability to address gender inequalities not only at individual and household levels, but also linking with others at community and sectoral levels. How the adapted FALS tools and facilitation processes will be finally streamlined and integrated will be decided by the MFIs in participatory consultation with clients their clients following 1-year assessment of what has been achieved – planned for around September 2018. In both MFIs further activities and significant upscaling are anticipated using their own funds.

There remains a lot to be done in terms of using the tools to develop activity-based networks that can start to address more endemic macro constraints to women and men’s businesses. BGG aims in the longer term to:

  • Further integrate client financial empowerment tools into product and service innovation development, SPM and client protection
  • Establish a solid and sustainable basis and skills for scaling up and replication in Philippines and elsewhere.

The end of pilot report outlines further recommendations to deepen the empowerment process and make client-led scaling up and replication in other areas easier and more cost-effective.

See Bridging the Gender Gap : Executive Summary