In August of this year, Negros Women For Tomorrow celebrated its 25th anniversary. The organization commemorated the occasion with an extravagant party titled “Handum” (Dream) with 6,000 attendees, including staff, borrowers, partners, and a pre-recorded message from the godfather of microfinance himself, Muhammad Yunus. Yunus catapulted microfinance into the mainstream in 2005 when he won the Nobel Peace Prize for his work with Grameen Bank in Bangladesh. Naturally, most people (including myself until a few months ago) think that it is a fresh, new approach to economic development and poverty alleviation. At 25 years old, however, NWTF is hardly fresh or new.
As a means of immortalizing the 25-year anniversary, the organization created a book of 25 of the most inspiring stories from its borrowers. In this blog, I’ve tried to lay out the history and mission of the organization to frame or provide context for other stories. The foreword to the book, written by the founder of the organization Dr. Cecilia del Castillo, offers a much clearer description of the organization. I quote it in its entirety here:
“Twenty-five years ago, at the height of the sugar crisis in Negros and its concomitant food shortage, the world saw that it was the women and children who suffered most. The children were in peril because of their dependence, but it was teh women who felt most powerless in the midst of the tragedy because they had nothing to feed their children.
The crisis twenty-five years ago spurred us to do something. It started wtih a dream to empower the most marginalized women, so that with a strong core, their families could rise out of poverty, become strong pillars, and build honorable communities even among the poorest.
Believing that in each of these women there is an indomitable spirit that can rise above any obstacle, that with determination, courage, unity, and discipline, anyone can overcome the most difficult of situations, our quest began in Negros Island and later spread to seven other provinces.
Over the years, we learned that the saying, “Give a man a fish; and you’ve fed him for today. Teach a man to fish; and you’ve fed him for a lifetime” is so true. But we also learned that for many among the poorest, a little push is all that’s necessary, for they already have the skills, talents and abilities to rise above their sad plight.
All they need is for someone to believe in them, to walk with them through the ups and downs of life, give encouragement when things fail, and to give support when new opportunities open – this is the support that the five members of each group give to each other.
Twenty-five years later, we’ve come to firmly believe that NWTF’s raison d’etre is to be nothing more but to be the spark, the match it were, to light the ready tinder of these women’s creative fire. To provide fuel, inspire, stimulate and sustain these women’s tenacity to survive against all odds.
As Negros Women for Tomorrow Foundation turns 25, we celebrate the many lives that we touched and continue to touch. We’re sharing the lives of these 25 remarkable women who in spite of life’s trials and tribulations, transformed their lives and soared out of penury, in the hope that their stories will inspire you to strive for more, to reach out more and take part in breaking the cycle of poverty.”