Muhtar Kent made a lasting impression on more than 1,000 women micro-entrepreneur scholars participating in the 5by20 Sari-Sari Store Training and Access to Resources (STAR) program during a recent visit to the Philippines.

Just before for the Coca-Cola Chairman and CEO’s visit, a mass graduation for the 5by20 STAR Program was held at the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) grounds. 

“Investing in women’s empowerment is investing in the future of this world,” Kent said. “We, at Coca-Cola, are committed to positively impacting the lives of the women within our value chain, and we can only be as sustainable as the communities we proudly serve. I have been all over the world to see women empowerment programs under our 5by20 global initiative, but it is only in the Philippines that I am able to witness a gathering of a thousand women retailers who have directly benefitted from one of our programs."

Kent thanked TESDA Secretary Joel Villanueva for his passionate leadership and support for the program. “We are so proud of our partnership with Secretary Joel Villanueva’s organization – TESDA, for bringing together the local knowledge and our global commitment to empower women entrepreneurs,” he added.

In a roundtable dialogue with a select group of successful 5by20 STAR scholars, Kent expressed the company's appreciation for the entrepreneurs’ commitment to their studies and to growing their retail businesses. “We at Coca-Cola, and with our partners, believe in one simple fact – if we empower women like yourselves, communities get better," he said. "Because you spend your money to help educate your children, you spend your money to help grow your business. And when that happens, all of us benefit, the country of the Philippines benefits, we as a business benefit, and we are able to transfer a better future for our children."    

The 5by20 STAR scholars shared their experiences, challenges and success stories. “Before joining the STAR Program, I was only earning about Php 500 to 700 daily," said Lolita Mendoza, owner of Lolit’s Sari-Sari Store. "Now, after using the knowledge gained from the training and after accessing resources, I am able to increase my sales to Php 3,500 to 4,000 every day.” 

Kent concluded, “When I hear stories from women that we have helped through the various 5by20 programs all over the world, like today in the Philippines, I believe we are helping shape better future for our communities."

In line with The Coca-Cola Company’s 5by20 global initiative to economically empower 5 million women within its value chain by year 2020, the objective of the STAR Program in the Philippines is to provide an enabling environment so women in the retail sector can achieve economic empowerment.

Through Golden Triangle partnerships forged with the Philippine Government’s TESDA and five regional microfinance cooperatives, Coca-Cola Philippines is able to bring integrated components that provide access to business skills and life training scholarships; business capital and assets; and peer mentoring support. The 5by20 STAR Program backs up the principle that when women are given an opportunity to earn, they reinvest more than 90 percent of their income to the welfare of their children and their family. By increasing the capacity of women to earn income through traditional trade, like sari-sari stores and food stalls, poverty cycles within families and communities can be broken.

Since 2011, the 5by20 STAR Program has empowered more than 36,000 women micro entrepreneurs in 46 locations in the Philippines. Coca-Cola Philippines also established the STAR Center for Excellence facility at the TESDA Women’s Center to enhance and diversify the program framework and accredit facilitators to be deployed throughout the country. As of date, the STAR program has 236 accredited facilitators teaching and training women retailers to become better entrepreneurs.

The 5by20 STAR Program is among the development initiatives under public-private-partnerships included in the 6th State of the Nation Address delivered by Philippine President Benigno S. Aquino. As a gender-responsive program for women, the 5by20 STAR Program also impacts the Philippines Government’s commitment in the Millennium Development Goals.