Positive signals from BAT Vietnam’s Empowering Women programme

Thursday, May 09, 2019 13:30

Empowering Women, a social programme in partnership with Vietnam Women Union, funded by BAT Vietnam has helped more than 160 poor households in An Giang and Dong Thap in its first year. They are underprivileged women in rural areas without stable jobs and with limited access to social aid programmes. Some of them used to smuggle cigarettes over the border from Cambodia.

Representatives from BAT Vietnam and Vietnam Women's Union discussed with local project team (Nhon Hung, Tinh Bien, An Giang) about the programme’s progress

Nguyen Thi Moi of Dong Hung hamlet, Nhon Hung Commune, last year got a loan of VND5 million from the programme to invest a portion in her grocery store and the rest in her husband’s vehicle repair shop. “Previously we only earned an average of VND40,000/day, now we earn VND100,000,” she said. The repayment of the interest-free loan is on easy terms.

Meanwhile, the case of Nguyen Thi Hien (Thuong Phuoc 1 Commune , Hong Ngu District, Dong Thap Province) is special.

She used to be offered to transport contraband cigarettes across the border to earn a few tens of thousands of dong. But danger was always high and it was illegal.

Hien said: “I was given an interest-free loan of VND5 million. Following advice by the local Women's Union, I quit this work and invested the loan amount in my family’s farming job. My first tomato growing effort was successful. I reinvested the profit (about VND 20 million) to grow beans. I am hoping for more success.”

“From that day on, our life is more stable with legal money. At meetings, I have also advised other women to give up tobacco smuggling.”

Moi and Hien are two of 160 households in An Giang and Dong Thap participating in "Empowering women", a programme which gives interest-free loans from funds worth VND1 billion provided by BAT Vietnam to disadvantaged women.

In the first year 166 households in 24 communes, wards and towns in six border districts of An Giang and Dong Thap provinces received loans for raising animals (eels, frogs, crickets, chickens, cows...), trading (groceries, catering services, sewing materials, basket weaving ...), growing clean vegetables, mushrooms, cassava, or chili and making dry fish and fish sauce.

Mr. Truong Van Toan, Head of BAT Vietnam’s Legal and External Affairs, was visiting a beneficiary in Nhon Hung Commune, An Giang Province

Particularly, in Thuong Phuoc 1 Commune, all 21 households participating in the programme, including Hien, quit the previous job of smuggling tobacco.

Huynh Thi Huynh Nhu, Chairwman of the Women's Union of Thuong Phuoc 1 Commune (Dong Thap Province), said before being chosen to access the interest-free loans of the Empowering Women programme, the 21 poor women suffered an unsecured livelihood. They always felt anxiety when earning a living by transporting illegal smuggled cigarettes across the border. “"After joining the programme, all of them have had good jobs such as retailing, opening grocery stores at home and farming. They have completely quit transporting illegally smuggled tobacco," she said, wishing that BAT Vietnam and the Women’s Union would continue to fund the poor women in this area.”

Nguyen Thi Ngoc Yen, Head of the Southern Committee of the Vietnam Women's Union, said: “After 10 months, with the granted loan, some households growing chilli and tapioca earn VND3-5 million. Traders get a monthly profit of VND3-3.5 million.”

Yen added that the Women's Union of An Giang and Dong Thap provinces have promoted the programme among locals and organised talks on start-ups and "Women’s Start-up Day" where the women can introduce their products.

Women’s Union units in communes have co-ordinated with the local police and the border guard to prevent illegal border crossings and smuggling of cigarettes and goods and train the beneficiaries in managing the loans.

Mr. Truong Van Toan, Head of BAT Vietnam’s Legal and External Affairs, said: "We are happy to see the positive changes in the lives of women who participated in the programme. The loans, given with the support of the Vietnam Women's Union and local authorities, have helped them to secure their family's livelihoods and to increase their incomes. We will want to help more disadvantaged women in other localities.”

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