In celebration of International Women's Day and the potency of investing to support gender equality

From financial exclusion - to tiny shop - to multiple businesses

Caroline Mulwa, Oikocredit Kenya Country Manager, speaking about East African women at the 2016 Africa Impact Investing Leaders Forum, highlighted that: “88% of Africa’s female population live in rural areas; 70% of agricultural labour is provided by women; 90% of all food is produced by women, but women own less than 2% of the land. Yet women have a significant, measurable, positive impact on small business ventures, local communities and families. And they have been proven to reduce investment risks, which is why Oikocredit lends much of its institutional and individual investors’ capital to social enterprises that support women”.

The Philippines 2017. Teresa Tomaro, “Dungganon” group member of the Negros Women for Tomorrow Foundation; and Blanca Méndez from Oikocredit International. Photograph: Nicolas Villaume.


As International Women’s Day comes around, Blanca Méndez, from Oikocredit International, also turns her thoughts to female entrepreneurs in low income countries – this time through the eyes of Oikocredit’s partners in the Philippines. Of the Filipino women Blanca met recently, she says: “They are strong, confident, empowered. Businesswomen who started from scratch but never gave up, despite the very real challenges and limitations they face along the way. Financially-excluded women who are fortunate to receive microloans from Oikocredit partner, Negros Women for Tomorrow Foundation (NWTF), but also have the entrepreneurial spirit and courage to develop their own business ventures.”

Twenty kilometres from Bacolod, in the barangay (village) of Dulao, Blanca had met with Teresa Tomaro, a “Project Dungganon” group member of Oikocredit partner, the Negros Women for Tomorrow Foundation (NWTF).

Fifteen years ago, Teresa and her family were living on small daily portions of dried fish and rice, a diet which is thankfully much improved today. That was around the same time she also received her first loan of PHP 3,000 (around € 56) from NWFT to start a tiny sari-sari (‘mix-mix’) convenience shop, alongside training which helped her to develop some basic business and financial skills. Her first modest profits were used to replace the mud floor of her kitchen with concrete, with subsequent profits being used to make further improvements to her shop and home.

Teresa Tomaro, micro-creditor of Negros Women for Tomorrow Foundation (NWTF).
Photography: Nicolas Villaume.


NTWF’s Project Dungganon aims at economically empowering women by providing collateral-free group lending alongside training to unlock their potential business skills and entrepreneurial spirit. Unusually, NTWF use the power of musical performance to encourage their female members to express themselves better and find their ‘own voices’.



NTWF’s Bacolod centre hosts 65 women from thirteen Dungganon groups. Once a month, each Dungganon group meets at the centre to make their loan repayments, share their day-to-day experiences (often through song and dance), and support one another practically and emotionally.

A Dungganon Project Women’s meeting at local NTWF centre. Photograph, Nicolas Villaume


Teresa is proud that her business is running well and that she has contributed to her children’s education and the wellbeing of her family. Her eldest son will graduate from college in IT and her other two children attend secondary school. She has also been able to buy a plot of land and take out a further loan of PHP 300,000 (c. €5,600) to purchase a second-hand truck, so that her husband, Tirso (a member of a sugar cane co-operative), can provide transport to sugar cane farmers.

The Philippines 2017. Teresa Tomaro in her Sari Sari shop. Photograph, Nicolas Villaume.


Asked what her advice would be for females seeking financial empowerment through their own business ventures, Teresa says: “Be patient with your customers. And use your capital wisely - it has to go to the business first.” This focus, alongside social investing support from Oikocredit partner NTWF, she says “has helped her to develop her self-confidence, independence and resilience and gain the respect of other women who see her as an inspiration. Being empowered is living Dungganon”,

 Credit: SDG Icons, United Nations.


Oikocredit views women’s economic empowerment as fundamental to achieving the UN’s 2030 sustainable development goals, particularly: ‘no poverty’, ‘gender equality’, ‘decent work and economic growth’ and ‘reduced inequalities’. In 2015, Oikocredit’s social impact investing partners in low-income and developing countries reached almost 40 million women with vital social finance and other support.

Established in 1975, Oikocredit invest in more than 800 social enterprise partners across Africa, Asia, Latin America and Central & Eastern Europe. We prioritise inclusive finance, agriculture, renewable energy and infrastructure sectors to reach the most disadvantaged communities in the world, including women and rural communities. Oikocredit’s activities support 16 of the 17 sustainable development goals and we issue annual Social Performance Reports on social and environmental outcomes.

The investment opportunity for individuals and organisations is via depository receipts in the Oikocredit International Share Foundation (OISF), which have delivered a 2% gross return, each year, every year since 2000. There is no fixed notice period for redemption, no annual management charge, and investors have always had their capital repaid. The minimum investment is £150 (or €200), there is no maximum.

To find out more about Oikocredit visit

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