Candy Paris: Not just a plain housewife!
Candy was the final woman I met with on my trip to the Philippines in January. Soft spoken with an ever-present and contagious smile, she is prominent in my memory for two reasons. The first: how she carefully wrote “plain housewife” as her occupation. The second: the joy and pride she felt from having a microfinance loan, because it meant that someone believed in her.
The first thing that needs saying about Candy is that she is not just a plain housewife. In our conversation she talked about cooking and selling native foods and delicacies, raising and selling pigs for the local market, selling solar lamps and energy efficient stoves to her village, and her most recent passion, making peanut butter and other preserved foods. She also has seven grandchildren. You’d think that she’d be busy enough with all of this, but Candy has even more she wants to do – she wants to learn how to sew, and establish a new church with her family.
I told Candy outright that she wasn’t a plain housewife – she’s a business woman! But her laugh and smile were dismissive of this idea. In the Philippines, a colleague told me earlier in the trip, women give up professional careers all the time to be at home with their family. In fact, I interviewed three women with college degrees who had done just that. Instead of seeking professional jobs, they work hard at home and struggle just to make ends meet.
Candy has been a member of SECDEP, Good Return’s microfinance partner in the Philippines, for three years. She told me that she and her husband used to sell dried fish – a delicacy in the Philippines – but neither of them could find permanent work.
This was a time of hardship for Candy and her family, because her highest priority was making sure her children could stay in school. Making sure her children can provide for their own families one day is Candy’s dream. This is what has motivated her through repaying six loans and taking out a seventh; an impressive accomplishment for anyone.
When I asked Candy how she felt after receiving her first microfinance loan, she gave me a huge smile and nodded vigorously.
“I was so proud,” she said. “It made me very happy. No one else would lend me any money to start a business. I was so encouraged by SECDEP – their loans are much lower interest, I was very proud to be chosen! I can access money now, and I couldn’t before.”
The humility she expressed was amazing to me – that just obtaining two thousand pesos (about $50 AUD) made her feel like a worthwhile person. She told me that her family is very close, that her grown children still live in the same community. She and her husband were recently able to move to a larger house, but didn’t sell the old one – instead giving it to her son and his wife.
“We just want to live a simple life,” Candy explained to me. “Others have advanced so much. We just want to be content with what we have, and not be too demanding on anyone.”
The money that Candy has made from her various enterprises has gone to making sure that her children received schooling. Her eldest daughter is now a teacher, and Candy is even helping to pay for her grandchildren’s education as well.
The last thing she told me was that she encouraged her two daughters to join SECDEP as well, because of the benefits of the loans and insurance. (Members of SECDEP pay a very low premium for life and property insurance, which they would not be able to afford or even qualify for at any other institution.) Her wise advice to them – only get loans that you can repay.
Candy’s dedication to her family and community were heart-warming to see. Her gratitude for being a woman to receive a microfinance loan was stunning – I couldn’t have imagined anyone being so proud and empowered. This just goes to show how one loan can make a huge difference in one woman’s life – and for her whole family.
Joni is Good Return’s Digital Marketing Coordinator and visited the Philippines for the first time in January 2013.