By Yang Ziman (China Daily)
Heavy machinery giant pledges further $2.5 million for women entrepreneurs
The Caterpillar Foundation, the charitable arm of the United States construction machinery giantCaterpillar Inc, has pledged to continue its 10-year support to a project providing micro-loans towomen across China.
Michele Sullivan, the foundation's president, said that since 2006 it has been supporting the non-profit organization Opportunity International worldwide, which helps create jobs and moresustainable incomes for families, with a particular focus on helping small businesses run bywomen in rural areas.
Sullivan said many women in China want to start their own business orgrow their existing firms, but find funding difficult.
She could not provide exact total loan figures for China over the pastdecade, but looking forward, the foundation plans to invest around 16million yuan ($2.53 million) to provide vocational training for thechildren of migrant workers over the next two years.
"The loans scheme has been particularly successful in China. Wehave noticed that in many cases, if you help the girls and the women ofthe family the returns are far greater. The whole family benefits," saidSullivan.
"Around 90 percent of micro-loan requests we get are from women,and they have 97 to 99 percent payback. It's a very good investment.
"Every time we have made an investment in the past, we ask the NGO involved how manywomen and girls are going to be influenced by the grant. The foundation also values projects,particularly those that affect women and girls indirectly."
Investments never exceed a quarter of the total being sought by applicants, so that individualprojects never depend solely on the foundation, if it decides to change its focus or cut itsbudgets, Sullivan said.
The Caterpillar Foundation has partnered with many non-profit organizations around the world,providing more than $600 million in charitable funding.
After 40 years in China, Caterpillar has become a key construction equipment supplier in thecountry with 29 manufacturing factories, four research and development centers, three logisticsand parts centers, and more than 10,000 employees.
Sullivan said the foundation has helped OI China with loans for a wide range of women-runprojects, from pig and mushroom farms, to convenient stores and clothing factories.
A good example is Zhang Yingxia, a woman living in a village in Anhui province, who in 2012wanted to expand her tailoring workshop but had no money. A loan of 50,000 yuan from OI Chinachanged all that.
"Every time I had looked for funding, I encountered difficulties. But that much-needed granthelped get me through that stage," said Zhang.
By the time she was applying for a third round of funding from OI China last year, she had morethan 70 staff, mostly women whose husbands were working away from home.
In another case, the foundation provided cash for a scheme to centralize water supply amongpoor villages nationwide.
"In regions where there is lack of water resources, it's the women and girls who go to look forwater while the boys go to school," said Sullivan