12 October 2020

     The Philippine Commission on Women (PCW) together with partner-enablers recently conducted the survey “Women Economic Empowerment (WEE) Project Study on the Immediate Effects of COVID-19 on Women Micro-Entrepreneurs (WMEs)” to identify common challenges faced by WMEs and determine the pandemic’s effects on their business operations and socio-economic conditions.

     The survey respondents are the eight hundred thirty-one (831) WMEs enrolled nationwide under GWP2, or the Gender Responsive Economic Action for the Transformation of Women (GREAT Women) Project 2. Most of these WMEs are in the food production and/or processing sector. In the Bicol Region, one hundred twenty-three (123) WMEs are enrolled in GWP2, and engaged in priority industries such as Processed Fruits & Nuts (90), Homestyle & Wearables (28), and Cacao (5).

     With reduced business operation and decreased income due to the pandemic, among the needs of WMEs—as shown by the survey results—are access to financing, working capital or loans; trade fairs and other market matching activities; e-commerce training; product assessment and development; marketing & branding workshops; access to food certification; access to support groups; skills training for employees; access to common service facilities; mental health programs for employees; and access to child support services. To address these challenges, GWP2 partner-enablers recalibrated the project’s Work & Financial Plan (WFP) from September 2020 until the project’s end in 2021.

     On a positive note, particularly for Bicol, three WMEs were able to increase sales through marketing strategies via social media. However, majority continued business operations despite limited capacity, with reduced sales by 25%, 50%, 75% and greater than 75%. Customer consistency is also a major factor for continued business operations, especially in essential industry sectors like food production and processing.

     On a scale of 1 (lowest) to 5 (highest), WMEs’ feelings and state of mental health has a mean rate of 3 or almost 3. In spite of the hardships they face, most WMEs have kept emotional maturity and resilience—traits evident especially among Bicolanos.

     The study revealed that Bicol has a high overall score in comparison to other regions, as confirmed by the PCW survey team Ms. Carmen Lopez, GWP2 Assistant Project Manager and Mr. James Russel De Vera, Planning Officer III during the recent Regional Focal Person’s Meeting on 15 July 2020.

     Spearheaded by PCW and Global Affairs Canada, GWP2 is jointly implemented in the region by the Department of Agriculture (DA), Department of Science & Technology (DOST), Department of Trade & Industry (DTI), and Socio-Economic Development Program Multi-Purpose Cooperative (SEDP-MPC). (Dr. P.O. Lucena, DOST V)