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BY Alex Wang [ April 29, 2009 at 09:03:55 ]

HOUSTON, TEXAS, April 28, 2009 – Hashoo Foundation USA and the University of Saint Thomas Micro Credit Program (UST MCP) announced their partnership to allocate $20,000 in loans to 100 women in honey bee farming. In collaboration with University of Saint Thomas Micro Credit Program, Hashoo Foundation’s new Credit & Enterprise Development (CED) program will help facilitate further expansion of the “Women Empowerment through Honey Bee Farming Project” - Plan Bee –in terms of scale as well as geographic coverage. Hashoo Foundation’s Plan Bee is the winner of the World Challenge 08 Competition sponsored by BBC World News, Newsweek, and Shell. The project empowers women in Northern Pakistan by expanding employment opportunities and generating a stable source of income. The project addresses the discrepancy between male and female beekeepers by educating the women beekeepers and linking them to profitable markets.

The announcement was made by Cristal Montañéz Baylor, Executive Director, Hashoo Foundation USA, during the World Café discussion panel on Micro-Credit & Micro-Finance hosted by the United Nations Association of the United States Houston Chapter. In addition to Mrs. Montañéz Baylor, other panel members were by Dr. Saleha Khumawala, University of Houston College of Business; Shirley Brooks, Regional Manager, ACCION Texas; David Schubert, RESULTS-Houston Chapter; and Cristal Montañéz Baylor. Lloyd Jacobson, Executive Director, United Nations Association of the United States Houston Chapter, served as the panel moderator. Among the audience were representatives from various educational institutions including Memorial High School, UST MCP and UH Micro-Credit Cougars, and humanitarians like Joanne King Hearring and Posey Parker who are involved with women’s empowerment programs Afghanistan.

Mrs. Montañéz Baylor recognized the importance of the partnership with UST MCP and the impact of micro credit as a way of alleviating poverty. She explained “UST MCP committed to raise $20,000, which translates into a revolving micro credit fund for 100 new women entrepreneurs in the target communities of Northern Pakistan including Gilgit and Chitral over a period of 2 years. The new beekeepers will be integrated into the “Women Empowerment through Honey Bee Farming Project” - Plan Bee. Every $500 loan will provide training in beekeeping, five (5) beehives, and the basic equipment a new beekeeper needs to initiate her own enterprise. “The program will benefit and impact the lives of an estimated 800 dependents[1] “ she said.

Rogelio Garcia-Contreras, Director of the University of Saint Thomas Micro-Credit Program declared “the University of St. Thomas Microcredit Program is honored by the opportunity to work side by side with Hashoo Foundation USA and its efforts to allocate loans for the empowerment of women through honey bee farming in remote regions of Pakistan. Our desire to have a positive and ever lasting impact over the lives of our students helped us identify common values and ideas with Hashoo Foundation and its interest to empower individuals. UST Microcredit Program students will then be working on the implementation of coordinated social entrepreneurship projects so the foreseen economic success of better and improved techniques in honey production eventually translate in better standards of living and long-term business sustainability for the beneficiaries of our loans”.

“These coordinated efforts to help the marginalized sectors of Pakistani society incorporate into the mainstream economic activity of the country is not only an act of shared responsibility but a fundamentally democratic step towards the consolidation of a better, freer and fair society. Besides, the environmentally friendly practice of honey bee farming reflects on the importance of generating wealth while preserving nature, which constitutes in and for itself a major reason for investing the know how and expertise of our students and professors in this wonderful project. The benefits and blessings of assuming our responsibility as the informed and educated individuals of this world do manifest at the core of this partnership. Let’s keep it going” said Mr. Garcia Contreras.

According to Sarah Hashwani, Chairperson of Hashoo Foundation and an Alumna of UST, “ providing a solid base with a revolving micro credit fund will help extend/replicate outreach of the program on a continual basis (with loan loss provision of 5 to 10% borrowers) through improved technological support, community mobilization, marketing linkages and net working resulting in higher production of quality honey supplemented with consistent sales through ensured market that consists of the chain of Pearl Continentals and Marriott hotels in the main cities of Pakistan as well as overseas whenever and wherever possible”.

Hashoo Foundation is currently pursuing ways to import the high-quality honey from the mountainous regions of Pakistan to the US and place it in local markets. The Foundation is considering the possibility of replicating the project in under-privileged communities in Houston to empower women and the disabled.

Contact: Cristal Montañéz Baylor, Executive Director Hashoo Foundation USA . Direct: +1 (713) 483-4990 . Fax: +1 (713) 759-0112



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