There are several reasons why the GREAT Women Project is pursuing women's economic empowerment:
- In the Philippines, not only is the bulk of the poor composed of women; 95 percent of microenterprises involve women. Microenterprises serve as engines of economic growth. In the 2003 Census on Business Establishments, 91.75 percent of establishments in the Philippines are microenterprises and women account for 95 percent of these microenterprises. With the spawning of informal work, women dominate the informal sector which covers livelihood and microenterprise development. Woman microentrepreneurs suffer from lack of capital, increasing dependence on lenders, overwork, limited supply of raw materials due to their inability to purchase in bulk, and limited access to the market, among others. Women workers in the informal sector also suffer from low productivity, low pay, poor working conditions and long working hours. Women workers and microentrepreneurs have to deal with unpaid work, such as home-care activities that contributes to work overload.
- More Filipino women are more active in starting a business than men. Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM), the largest single study of entrepreneurial activity in the world, profiled entrepreneurship in the Philippines in a 2006-2007 study. Analysis of the study (by Imelda Madarang, Cielito Habito and the Philippine Center for Entrepreneurship) showed four out of 10 adult Filipinos, aged 18 to 64 are engaged in business, which approximates around 19 million (39.2%) of the national population. Globally, the Philippines ranks second among 42 countries with most individuals owning a business. One out of five Filipinos (20.44%) or about 10 million adult Filipinos are engaged in early stage entrepreneurial activity (TEA). Globally, the Philippines has the least gender gap among business owners (55% male against 45% female) and has women more active in starting a business than men. Women also comprise 51% of new business owners. Women predominantly own nascent enterprises (69%), but men predominantly own established businesses (66%). Data suggests that women start a business, until the business has stabilized for the husband to take on full-time involvement. Women cited family time management as a leading hindrance in running their businesses. Women in their peak child-rearing years (25 to 34 years old) cite this constraint the most (38%), while the proportion of women citing this factor as a hindrance in business is declining for women aged 45 and over.
- Systematic analysis of gender issues in microenterprise and microfinance is needed. There has been no systematic analysis of the gender issues in microenterprise and microfinance to serve as basis of concrete actions to mainstream gender in a practical way and promote women's economic empowerment. The focus has been on the sustainability of microfinance institutions (MFIs) rather than on the positive or negative impact of MFIs on their clients.
- Social services have to be integrated in microfinance. The Medium-Term Philippine Development Plan (MTPDP), 2004-2010 recognizes that for microfinance to be a sustainable and holistic tool for poverty alleviation especially among women, who comprise majority of its clientele, there is a need to integrate social services (insurance, family planning services), among others in MFIs programs.
- Enterprise laws and programs need to be fully implemented. Implementation of government's enterprise development laws and programs in terms of their targeting and reach need to be hastened. For example, no special credit window has actually been created for women microentrepreneurs as per Republic Act No. 7882 or Assistance to Women Engaging in Micro and Cottage Business Enterprises Law. At present, most women access credit from microenterprise lending windows of government and those operated by non-government organizations (NGOs) that have small, noncollaterized loan ceilings. At the local level, there is a need to harmonize the implementing guidelines and circulars on microenterprises from various concerned national government agencies.
- Registering business should be easier. In the Philippines, every firm must register at both the local and national levels. At the local level, all businesses are required to secure a mayor's permit or municipal license from the local government unit (LGU) in which they are located. However, since there are no regulated, standardized registration procedures at the LGU level, the time and cost required in registering a business may vary from one LGU to another. The need to simplify business registration is vital in encouraging micro and small enterprises to register and obtain licenses that will formalize them as business establishments. At present, it would take an entrepreneur 48 days to complete the 11 required procedures.
- Stronger monitoring and evaluation systems for gender equality in economic development is necessary. At both the national and local levels, there is a need for stronger monitoring and evaluation systems to track gender equality, in addition to women's economic empowerment. The lack of sex-disaggregated data at all levels, makes it more difficult to ascertain how economic development is affecting women and men and impedes the refinement of laws, policies, programs and services to become more gender-responsive.
- Microenterprise development is a viable strategy for women's economic empowerment. It aims to contribute to the targets set under the Medium-Term Philippine Development Plan (MTPDP), 2004-2010 to create six to ten million jobs, three million of which are from microenterprise development. By enhancing the enabling environment for women's economic empowerment, national and local partners are able to support the viability and profitability of MSMEs, which provide jobs to significant segment of the labor force.
Women's economic empowerment supports the fulfillment of national and international commitments. It aims to contribute to the fulfillment to the Philippine Government's commitment to human rights conventions and commitments such as the United Nations' Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (UN CEDAW), Beijing Platform for Action (BPFA), Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), among others.