In the Tibet Autonomous Region, rural women who want to start a business face even heavier financial burdens. But thanks to a micro-loan plan, the women are able to receive subsidized loans, as long as they train and employ other villagers in the business.
39-year-old Pasang Dolma started a weaving shop at home 13 years ago. She didn’t turn it into a proper factory until 2012, when she recruited five workers from her village.
“Most people who live in the village are women. They can’t travel far to work elsewhere. And weaving is what we are good at. That's why I started this workshop,” she said.
Dolma needed money for factory space and machinery, but the highest amount of credit loan she could apply for as a rural resident was just 50,000 yuan, or US$8,000. That was far from enough to start a business.
Dolma talked to the local women’s federation. The semi-official organization then worked with the local treasury and agricultural bank to grant Dolma a two-year, 200,000-yuan mortgage loan. Under the program, Dolma was backed by a guaranty company in case she couldn’t pay her debt.
The local treasury would cover the 1.08-percent interest, while Dolma only needed to pay the principle.
Tibet’s Agricultural Bank said that since 2010, nearly 400 women across the Tibet Autonomous Region set up businesses thanks to the special loan. Xigaze’s Bainang county has the most lenders.
"Many textile and manufacturing related businesses in our county are established by women. But they didn’t have proper training, and their production and sales were quite simple, so they didn’t generate much revenue. We have set up this special microloan program to help them meet their financial challenges,” said Tseten, credit clerk, China Agricultural Bank Tibet, Bainang Branch.
The start-up loans for women here in Tibet often carry welfare purposes. In order to receive government subsidized loans, women entrepreneurs have to create job opportunities for other families in the same neighborhood.
32-year-old Lhakpa Cangchok inherited her family’s five-generation craft of incense-making. As a beneficiary of the microloan, she feels responsible for training and employing other villagers who live in poverty. She covers her eight workers’ three meals and pays each of them 80 yuan a day.
Cangchok’s incense is popular in neighboring areas, so she provides the option for her employees to work in exchange for the incense. They can then sell the product and keep the income.
"Now my production is expanding, and I’m also training other villagers to make incense. People from two nearby villages all come to buy in wholesale. I’m really happy with what I’ve accomplished,” said Lhakpa Cangchock, incense producer.
Cangchok is planning to build additional workspace and a storage house just outside the current site.
And for early bird Dolma, the local agricultural bank just granted her a new round of loans, totaling 2 million yuan. Dolma plans to buy more machines in Guangdong province and expand her work force to 100.