Entrepreneurship prospers amongst Filipino populations in danger for HIV – Philippines


METRO MANILA, Philippines – Need is inventive, as the saying goes, and COVID-19 has created needs of far-reaching depth and breadth around the world. Many new unemployed people had to reinvent themselves to find an alternative source of income as old jobs shrank or disappeared entirely due to the pandemic.

Be your own boss

In the Philippines, some found their livelihood with new bosses: themselves. The UNFPA and Center for Health Solutions and Innovations, Inc. piloted the Economic Opportunities for Women and Key Business Opportunities program last October in Pasay and Caloocoan, Metro Manila Populations Disadvantaged by COVID “began helping women with transactional sex and women living with HIV for the first time to mitigate both the socio-economic impact of the health crisis and the risk of contracting the coronavirus by making a living all in one.” other field than sex work.

Rather than handing out money, the program offered training, including skills such as accounting, signage, and products for micro business creation, including cell phone recharging services, food stalls, and shops selling basic odds and ends (called sari-sari) or handicrafts. The new entrepreneurs then use the profits to support their endeavors, which are overseen by program coordinators.

The program has since expanded to Cebu City and Angeles City, as well as HIV-vulnerable populations, including transgender women and men who have sex with men (MSM), and has helped more than 250 people to date. These important populations, who are more likely to experience health problems due to poverty or inadequate health care due to discrimination, are particularly vulnerable to COVID-19.

Pay dividends

Julio *, 41, is an MSM who opened a mini-store in front of his home in Cebu City after hearing about the initiative from the city’s health department. “Even though I started small, I’ll do my best to keep it up so I can support my family and help others in our community,” said the former government employee who struggled to find a job due to COVID-19.

Carmen *, a 44-year-old transgender woman also in Cebu City, lost her job as a volleyball referee due to social restrictions and could not find a job. In addition to meeting her daily needs, the food stand she opened also offered a valuable lesson: “This experience taught me that our most painful struggles can give us the growth we need. What seems like a curse at the moment can actually be a blessing that the end of the road is a discovery that we should go on a different path. No matter how difficult things seem, there is always hope. No matter how powerless we feel, we cannot give up. ”

* Name changed for data protection reasons