Let’s start for a moment, shall we, from the basics. I’ve been writing about my Kiva Fellowship in the Philippines, the fundraising it took to get me here, the arrival – and so I know I’ve mentioned Ahon sa Hirap, Inc. (ASHI) before – but since arriving I understand the organization a lot more than simply what I had read in the “About Us” section. Here we go.
First off, ASHI funds 100% loans to women. Being a country rampant with poverty, almost always a business is not one person alone, it involves family, husbands, parents, children and is multi-generational. So that being said, many times, the WOMAN takes the loan, provides the capital, but her husband might be sharing in the business responsibilities.
A few examples:
- A woman takes out a loan to buy a fishing boat and fishing nets. Her husband would be the one to go out and fish, when he brings in the catch, the woman helps to 1) separate the fish and help take it to the market or sell it to a buyer/seller in the village who takes it to market AND 2) helps clean the boat and prepare it for the next day and put away the fishing nets.
- A woman is the maker of a product say peanut butter, sleeping mats, or clay pots. Her loan might be to help buy a tricycle/motorbike for her husband/brother/son to transport her goods to neighboring villages to help sell it.
- A woman’s business is in agriculture or livestock. That could mean she owns a rice field, or is a goat breeder, hog fattener or owns ducks (first for eggs and then for taking to the market). Her loan could be to buy feed for her animals, the money to purchase or borrow a plow for the fields, money for seeds to plant rice/vegetables but her family (children included before or after school) help to do all the work.
What this means is the woman is ultimately responsible for paying back the loan. She is responsible to ASHI, but needs her family to grow and sustain the business.
Next. For the lending. Ok, so ASHI has 4 regions they operate in the Philippines. The headquarters office is in Quezon City (just outside Manila). The other regions are named for the province they’re in: Rizal, Antique (not like we know antique, but like ANT-eek-eh), South Metro Manila and Laguna. Only one region has a regional office – and that’s Rizal. Otherwise each province has branches to cover different areas. I’ve spent the most time in Antique so let me explain from there.
Antique has 6 branches: Northwest, Northeast, Central, South, Southwest, and Southeast. Each branch has a branch manager, accounts officer and a few development officers. Each development officer is responsible for a set number of Centers within the branch. Each branch might have between 60 and 85 Centers. A Center is comprised of Groups (between 1-6). A Group is made up of 5 women – no more, and usually no less. Think of a Center as EACH VILLAGE. Each Village has its own Center – partially because the women walk to the meeting each week and wouldn’t be able to travel far distances, but also to keep solidarity amongst them.
Everything here is a family affair. Sometimes for the best – helping from a standpoint of family first is always a good starting point but sometimes for the worst – some family seems to be taking advantage of a family member that is doing well and uses it as a opportunity to take advantage of them and their generosity. There doesn’t seem to be a lot of “saying no” or “putting your foot down” to family in need here. That is another topic for another blog post.
More about ASHI. Since it is the oldest existing replication of Grameen Bank Approach (GBA) to credit delivery to the bottom poor in the Philippines, it is very well known and well-respected here. They underwent an expansion in 1997 and grew from 5 branches and 1,266 members to today’s numbers of 20 branches and 22,000 members. Their current portfolio has 17,000 active members with a 99.9% repayment rate. Their portfolio risk is a mere 2% and they have $120 PHP outstanding with $300 PHP in assets. In dollars (with today’s currency exchange rate of $1 : $48.36) that means $2.48 million in outstanding with $6.2 million in assets.
A few other interesting points to note about ASHI:
- Social Performance Task Force – They undergo studies to translate the impact of improving the financial situation of women to their social mission. So is there mission being fulfilled at the ground level?
- Business Development Services – This group goes to Centers and into the homes of Borrowers to empower them to make decisions in the home. This means that although many women are receiving the loans, their husbands might be enforcing his view of where and how the money should be spent. This program aims to educate women to know their rights and ability to make decisions for their families on their own.
- Social Development Program (SDP) – This one is talked about A LOT. Each Center meeting every week has SDP. A group (remember that means 5 women) will present to the whole Center on a topic. This could range from basket weaving to cooking to keeping a better financial log for their businesses. I’ve witnessed SDP’s all week, and it’s really inspiring seeing the woman teach each other.
- Motivations – This is where a development office will go into the field to visit a member and, through a variety of exercises, motivate, encourage, and empower them. This 1:1 interaction is an opportunity for many women to say things – express concerns, hopes, dreams – that they haven’t before in Group Meeting. It’s very popular among development officers, who only wish they had more time to help more members.
So there it is, a (not-so-brief) overview. And I’m just getting started! So much more to share with you. I hope you’re enjoying these updates, if you want to know something I’m not telling you, please let me know either in the comments or by emailing me at email@example.com.