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Australia funding for women-owned SMEs sustains 1,000 jobs

Pia Lee Brago - The Philippine Star
Australia funding for women-owned SMEs sustains 1,000 jobs
The economic disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic have disproportionately affected women in the Philippines, which registered during the peak of lockdowns in April 2020 a record-high 17.7 percent unemployment rate. Women were also overrepresented in job losses.
STAR / File

MANILA, Philippines — In celebrating women’s month this March, the Australian government has reported that its funding program to inject capital for women-owned and women-led businesses in the Philippines has supported 13 small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), sustaining over 1,000 jobs during the pandemic.

The economic disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic have disproportionately affected women in the Philippines, which registered during the peak of lockdowns in April 2020 a record-high 17.7 percent unemployment rate. Women were also overrepresented in job losses.

To address this problem, the Investing in Women – an initiative of the Australian government and the Macquarie Group Foundation – launched the Macquarie Investing in Women RISE Fund to help women’s SMEs adapt and respond to emerging business opportunities during the pandemic.

This fund enabled local partners – Foundation for a Sustainable Society and InBest Ventures – provide investments to 13 women’s SMEs across rural and urban markets in the Philippines, including agriculture, tech and infrastructure.

It also helped sustain over 1,068 full-time quality jobs and continued to expand new economic opportunities through business growth.

The Philippines is the first country in the region selected for Australia’s P43-million program to help the sector recover from the impact of the pandemic. The women entrepreneurs operate in industries that are traditionally male-dominated such as agriculture, tech and infrastructure, as well as fish and poultry trading.

Australian Ambassador Steven Robinson AO said this “outstanding performance proves that women’s leadership should become the norm, not an exception, in a post COVID-world.”

“This Women’s Month, I pay tribute to women entrepreneurs who continue to drive the country’s economic recovery. Australia is committed to supporting women entrepreneurs and contributing to the resilience of local communities. The Macquarie-Investing in Women RISE Fund has highlighted the central role that women play in economic recovery from COVID-19,” Robinson said.

He added five of these SMEs worked with over 13,000 farmers, providing market access and stable incomes. Another SME is leveraging technology to make education more accessible, by providing finance to 881 students in the first half of 2021.

Susan Clear of the Macquarie Group Foundation said the Investing in Women RISE Fund has been integral to efforts to provide relief to COVID-19 affected communities in the Philippines.

“The Fund has expanded access to much needed capital for women’s SMEs, who contribute to a more resilient, inclusive and broad-based economy. Working through impact investors, our support has helped businesses to restart economic activity in hard-hit areas of the Philippines,” Clear said.

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