Empowering the marginalized



The year of the Rooster, 2017, has barely started but the country has already seen the launch of several important events. Miss Universe Organization President Paula Shugart arrived in Manila to spearhead the nationwide activities leading to the 65th Miss Universe pageant on Jan. 30 at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City.

The official launch of the Philippines’ year-long stint as the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) Chair was held at the SMX Convention Center in Davao City on Jan. 15. This was a prelude to the 30th Asean Summit in April; the 5oth Asean Ministerial Meeting coinciding with Asean’s Golden Jubilee celebration in August, and the 31st Asean Summit in November, including related meetings like the East Asia Summit and multilateral dialogues with partner-nations from other continents.

Aside from these high-profile events, a low-key program was formally launched last week by one of the top Asean banks, the Malayan Banking Berhad (Maybank). The Maybank Foundation kicked off the Philippine edition of RISE, which stands for Reach Independence and Sustainable Entrepreneurship, at the Barangay East Rembo Multi-Purpose Hall in Makati City.

Since 2014, the RISE program has been successfully running in Malaysia and Indonesia. It targets participants from underprivileged communities to help them increase their income without the need for business startup grants.

RISE is also designed to train, coach, and mentor participants to develop their entrepreneurial skills, resulting in higher income levels, thus improving their overall standard of living. The foundation has earmarked an initial P6 million for the pilot program as an investment for corporate social responsibility (CSR), and will eventually invest a total of P40 million for its CSR program in the country.

Maybank International CEO Pollie Sim said: “This year, Maybank will be marking its 20th year in the Philippines. What an opportune time to celebrate this significant milestone than to roll out a successful program in a key market of the Maybank Group.”

Under the program, 100 participants each from Metro Manila and Metro Cebu will attend a three-day entrepreneurship and financial training workshop, followed by a six-month mentoring period. RISE aims to have at least 40 oercent of its participants gain an income increase of 100 percent within three months.

Persons with disabilities (PWDs) comprise 70 percent of the participants, while the remaining 30 percent come from other marginalized sectors, such as abused women and single mothers. There is a large-scale involvement of the banking giant’s employees in the mentoring phase.

People Systems Consultancy (PSC) is a Malaysian social enterprise that assists Maybank in implementing the RISE program. PSC’s operations extend to Indonesia, Thailand, France, and New Zealand, with a Philippine branch to open soon.

According to Maybank Foundation CEO Shahril Azuar Jimin, there is a lack of effective economic empowerment program for PWDs and other disadvantaged communities within the Asean region. “Our commitment to empowering the disadvantaged is very much in line with Maybank’s mission of humanizing financial services,” he said.

In addition to capacity building, a structured mentoring system will be put in place to ensure that future entrepreneurs will get continued support and knowledge transfer from skilled Maybank volunteers. “When we meet these people, we find that they don’t look for dole-outs; they just want opportunity,” Mr. Shahril said.

This project has likewise generated business for the bank as many of the participants had become “bankable” due to their income hike, resulting in the opening of accounts and access to banking facilities.

Britain’s University of Nottingham, which has satellite campuses in Kuala Lumpur and Selangor, conducted an independent review of the RISE pilot program and gave very positive validation, quoting participants who felt grateful for getting better income opportunities.

We hope more corporate citizens will rise to the occasion by emulating this noble project that goes beyond charitable giving and encompasses sustainable programs with long-lasting impact.

J. Albert Gamboa is co-chairman of the FINEX Media Affairs Committee and serves as a consultant for private and public sector organizations. The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of FINEX.



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