Empowering Women, a social programme 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 who has no stable occupation, limited access to social aid programme. Part of them have been unexpected over-the border transporters for smuggled cigarettes.
Nguyen Thi Moi, living in Dong Hung hamlet, Nhon Hung Commune, last year got a loan of VND5 million from the programme to invest a part in her grocery store and the remaining in her husband’s vehicle repair shop. “Previously we only earned an average of VND40,000/day, now we earn VND100,000,” Moi said. The repayment of the interest-free loan is also less difficult.
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 smuggle cigarettes across the border to earn a few tens of thousands of dong. But danger was always high because and it’s illegal
Hien said: “I was given an interest-free loan of VND5 million, Following advice by the local Women's Union, I quit this job and invest the loan to my family farming job. My first tomatoes project was successful. I reinvest the earned profit (about VND 20 mio) to cultivate the beans. I am hoping for another 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.
Truong Van Toan, Head of BAT’s Legal and External Affairs, is visiting 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) said before being chosen to access the interest-free loans of the Empowering Women programme, the 21 poor women suffered an instable life. Moreover, 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: We checked and found that 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.
From 2018, the Women's Union has implemented this programme in An Giang and Dong Thap funded by BAT Vietnam. Via the programme, underprivileged women, who had no stable occupation or used to participate in tobacco trade fraud across the border, have the opportunity to get a proper loan to change the way of earning a living for better life.
Truong Van Toan, Head of BAT’s Legal and External Affairs, said: "We are happy to see the positive changes in the lives of women who participated in the loan programme.
“The loans, given with the support of the Vietnam Women's Union and local authorities, have helped them secure their family's livelihoods and increase their incomes.
“In future BAT intends to join the Vietnam Women's Union to take this fund to disadvantaged women in other localities.”
Thanks to the "Empowering Women" programme, disadvantaged women have the opportunity to get a suitable loan to expand their family business or invest in livestock and farming.
In particular, women who do not have a steady livelihood can get a loan to invest in a suitable business, helping improve their income.