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Never too small for hope (sari-sari store) – International Day of Rural Women 2020

Ms. Mary Jane Selecia, sari-sari store owner in Manguindanao, Philippines.

Mary Jane Selecia is a mother of five who lives in a rural community in Upi, Maguindanao in the Philippines. She runs a sari-sari store (corner store) in her community. COVID-19 has significantly affected their household and community.

To mitigate the spread of COVID-19, the government imposed community quarantine measures which includes physical distancing, movement restrictions, suspension of classes, and conduct of awareness campaigns on infection, prevention, and control measures (IPC). To cushion the socio-economic impact of the quarantine, subsidies were provided to households to complement their existing resources.

The government subsidy reminds Mary Jane that her household needs to maximize their savings. “My shop is bringing in one-third of the profit. I would earn around P4,000 (US$ 82) and now I am fortunate if I make P1,000 (US$20) a week. We invest P3,000 (US$ 61) a week just to keep the store running,” she said. Their household requirement for a month is estimated at PhP 9,000 (US$ 185) and was previously covered from the sari-sari store’s profits.

Borrowing money is becoming a vicious cycle for Mary Jane, “We have no savings and the income we make for our businesses go towards repaying our loans from relatives and friends. It seems like we are borrowing to pay over and over again,” she said.

Relief information is even more scarce when in the remote mountainous areas like Tinungkaan. The interventions in Mary Jane’s town were constrained to the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) conducting a survey to determine the poorest population in the village.

Mary Jane’s husband works as a Barangay Secretary and his work became an unexpected lifeline, “We did not need to apply for the Social Amelioration Program (SAP) because of my husband’s job. We are also beneficiaries of the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps),” she explained.

The SAP has given qualified families P5,000 to P8,000 per month for two months. “We bought one sack of rice. The remaining money is additional capital for our store,” she said.

Farming has augmented the dwindling income of the household. “Our alternative sources of income are planting vegetables and raising farm animals. The small farm supports us while providing us with food. We are often forced to consume supplies from the sari-sari store,” she explained.

Stock in her store is already limited because of the limited supply in Noro, where she buys her supplies. Transportation cost for each of the trips to Noro is now P100, which is an exacerbated cost during the lockdown.

Everyday expenses have become a challenge for her community. “There is a decline in sales because many of our neighbors and customers do not have work,” she said. As the COVID-19 situation evolves, Mary Jane adapts to provide food on the table for her children and access to basic commodities in her community.

This case study on the plight of microenterprises in the Philippines was selected for the International Day for Rural Women (15 October 2020). It was originally shared across the Asian Disaster Preparedness Center (ADPC) platforms for the International Day for Rural Women

Here are the links:

Cambodia– Website: The Grain of the Matter

Link: Facebook, Twitter

The Philippines– Website: Never too Small for Hope


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