Celebrating women entrepreneurs through vendor business schools

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As we celebrate International Women’s Month, it is important to acknowledge the integral contributions made by women entrepreneurs to society. Through their unwavering determination, they uplift the lives of their families and drive the economic growth of their communities. The female participants of the Vendor Business School (VBS) in Quezon City, Philippines exemplify this trait.

The VBS is a program of CGIAR Resilient Cities initiative that aims to empower small food vendors by providing them with vital knowledge, skills, and resources to overcome the challenges of their daily business operations and improve their food safety measures. Currently, the VBS program is being piloted in two countries, Philippines and Kenya.

In the Philippines, CGIAR has partnered with the City Government of Quezon City to conduct the program from February to July 2024. Vendor participants are selected from private and public markets and temporary vending sites. The training and coaching sessions will cover topics on entrepreneurship, business planning, budgeting, marketing, risk management, adapting to technological changes, establishing financial connections, and ensuring food safety. Watch a video on VBS empowering food vendors in urban Philippines.


Female vendors engage in interactive sessions during onboarding sessions of the VBS, held from 13 to 23 February 2024. Photo by Arma Bertuso /CIP

The onboarding sessions of the VBS, held from 13 to 23 February 2024, shed light on the family dynamics and gender relations in the families of vendors that affect their businesses. The onboarding sessions highlighted the similarities and differences in the perceptions of male and female vendors as well as the vendors and their family members who play critical roles in the business. A total of 112 vendors, mostly female (66%), and 27 family members attended the first training sessions.

Female vendors acknowledged the indispensable role their business play in supporting their families. For many, their business serves not just as a source of livelihood but as a lifeline. It provides them income to meet their basic needs, cover essential bills, and even offer support to grandchildren. A female vendor who is also a single mother confided that beyond securing her three children’s education, her business serves as her beacon of hope. Through her relentless perseverance, she was able to invest her hard-earned profits into an apartment she currently rents out.

In reciprocity, their families actively contribute to their businesses. The female vendors emphasized the invaluable contributions roles of their family in their business endeavors, ranging from providing assistance in business operations, managing household duties and childcare, to providing emotional support. One female vendor from private market shared that when challenges arise in their business, her family provide words of encouragements and rally behind her.

While male vendors shared similar views on the importance of business to family and the importance of family’s support to business, female vendors underscored distinct challenges in their business operations. One female vendor expressed concerns about incurring debts, which sometimes without their partners’ awareness, and managing the repayment of these debts. Some hawker vendors reported that their business makes them tired, sleep-deprived, and stressed.

Amidst the challenges, the female vendors demonstrated a resolute drive to succeed in their business. During the onboarding sessions, their long-term goals were explored, revealing that the vendors’ determination was not only based on the immediate benefits of the business but also on their aspirations for the future.

Both female and male vendors had similar goals, such as providing a secure future for their children through education, saving money, owning a house, and growing their business. However, female vendors had goals that extend beyond improving their family’s standard of living. They expressed a desire to build relationships with more vendors, expand their customer base, engage in recreational activities, and develop their children’s interest in their business. The VBS aims to assist the vendors in achieving these goals and aspirations. By empowering them, especially the women, with necessary knowledge, skills, and resources, vendors can make even greater contributions to society.



CGIAR Resilient Cities initiative: CGIAR Resilient Cities research initiative seeks to harness the dynamism of urban societies and economies to catalyze technological, institutional, and social change. By enabling agrifood system innovations and investment strategies for inclusive job and business opportunities, the Initiative aims to ensure access to healthier diets for all, safeguard human health, and minimize environmental risks. The initiative generates evidence, technologies, and capacities that help improve urban food systems and secure equitable job and business opportunities, healthy diets for all, human and environmental health, and a reduced carbon footprint. It forms part of CGIAR’s new Research Portfolio, delivering science and innovation to transform food, land, and water systems in a climate crisis.

Vendor Business School (VBS): The establishment of Vendor Business Schools (VBS) will serve as a platform for empowering small food vendors and equipping them with the necessary knowledge, skills, and resources to overcome the challenges they face in their day-to-day business practices. VBS draw upon the model of Farmer Business Schools (FBS), which have, through participatory action and the strengthening of agribusinesses, proven to be beneficial for over 3,500 farmers in India, Indonesia, and the Philippines (CIP, 2019). By providing targeted training, mentorship, and access to business support services, the VBS aims to enhance the entrepreneurial capacity of small food vendors, promote inclusive economic growth, and contribute to the overall resilience of the urban food system. Through the collaboration of various stakeholders, including local government authorities, academic institutions, and community organizations, the Vendor Business Schools can play a vital role in fostering a supportive and conducive environment for the sustainable development of small food businesses in the targeted cities.

Authors: Stella Concepcion R. Britanico (CIP), Phoebe Ricarte (IRRI) and Arma Bertuso (CIP)

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