Olongapo SubicBay BatangGapo Newscenter

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

UNFPA plans expanding micro-finance program in Olongapo City

OLONGAPO CITY - The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) is planning to expand coverage of its micro-finance program for marginalized women in Olongapo City.

"We plan to assist beginning 2009 five more women's groups in the city," said UNFPA City Project Coordinator Bel Dado.

UNFPA will select one women's group each in the city's Mabayuan, Sta. Rita, Baretto, New Cabalan and Gordon Heights villages.

"To qualify, group members must have entrepreneurial capability and income below the poverty threshold," Dado said.

She noted women's groups interested in availing of the program can submit their proposals to UNFPA so the organization can evaluate these.

UNFPA is now coordinating with local authorities concerned regarding social preparation activities it plans to commence in January for groups to be chosen, she continued.

The organization came up with the program to help alleviate poverty in the countryside.

Such program also seeks to empower women financially by providing them with seed capital for livelihood activities.

Last year, UNFPA granted PhP50,000 seed capital to Barangay Sta. Rita Women's Smoked Fish Producers' Association so its members can produce and sell smoked and dried fish.

"This is the first project to be financed under such program," Dado said.

She reported the group is doing well and its earnings from daily production of both smoked fish ("tinapa") and dried fish ("daing") enable it to have bank savings.

Fish processed include bangus, galunggong, tilapia and matang baka.

"The group was able to double in one year the amount of seed money it received," Dado also noted.

Group members now also earn extra that they can already avail of Olongapo City's reproductive health (RH) services.

"We didn't even seek such services before as our money then was insufficient even for our food and other basic needs," said group member Emelita Evangelista.

She noted each member began earning an extra PhP200 on the average daily when the project began.

Such earning eventually rose to PhP300 a day at present, enabling members to gradually access RH services and commodities, she said.

"Some of us can now afford to buy birth control pills," Evangelista noted.

Population program coordinator Generosa Josafat said such pills cost about PhP30 per pack. "Each pack is good for a month's use."

Through UNFPA's program, husbands and other kin of group members were able to help produce smoked and dried fish.

Josafat estimated the group's daily production at some 10 "banyera" each containing 50 kilograms of fish.

Fish processor Ricardo Balingit said they sell the produce at PhP20 per three pieces or PhP25 per four pieces depending on size.

"This project is helping send my children to primary and secondary school," he said. (By Catherine J. Teves - PNA)

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