EFFORTS on pursuing Shari’ah-based microfinance is slowly but surely gaining more adherents especially among women-led Moro organizations in Mindanao. This, even as the Bangsamoro Basic Law, which mandates the promotion of Islamic banking under “Exclusive powers”, is still awaiting passage at the House of Representatives.
Among representatives from the Moro women’s organizations present during a Technology Learning Exchange Partnership event in Davao City, that have been practicing Shari’ah compliant financial services in their communities in Mindanao include Hja Giobay S. Diocolano of Kadtabanga Foundation for Peace and Development Advocates; Yolanda M. Nawal, Wahida M. Abtahiand Sittie Aleeya Nawa of Katiyakap; Marilou Banding, Grace Rasula, Cecile Mutia and Mamole Pangandaman of Maranding Women Investors Multi-Purpose Cooperative; and Rahima Silongan, and Rayhan Digandang from the Federation of United Mindanawan Bangsamoro Women Multi-Purpose Cooperative; and Hessam Z. Esrael of Al-Wataniya Credit Cooperative.
These organizations have been partners of the Peace and Equity Foundation (PEF) that has been pursuing Shari’ah-compliant financing through the years.
The Technology Learning Exchange Partnership event was sponsored by PEF in partnership with Dompet Dhuafa Republika or DD, an economic guru from Indonesia, the Center for Agriculture and Rural Development – Mutually Reinforcing Institutions (CARD-MRI), and hosted by Ramon Magsaysay Award Foundation (RMAF).
Tackled in the workshops were the challenges confronted by these organizations in practicing Shari’ah financing, and success stories on poverty alleviation.
PEF Executive director Roberto Calingo said they ventured into Shari’a Financing in 2011 here in Mindanao, as a way of helping in the Peace process during that time. PEF was then extending assistance through “economic empowerment and livelihood” projects before taking on projects in Islamic context that can be slowly honed and promoted, even though they still had to understand Islamic finance.
The wide-ranging experience of Indonesia’s Dompet Dhuafa Republika was the main focus of the learning sessions. A philanthropic institution that has been servicing the needs not only among the financially poor in their country but in other Asian countries as well, the DD has been practicing investment of waqf assets in banking institution, Baitul Mal wat Tamwil (BMT) and capital for the needy who are involved in small and medium enterprises based on two Shari’a approaches; the “mudarabah” and the “musharakah.”
The team from Dompet Dhuafa included Rini Supri Hartanti, head of DD Social Enterprise, who provided an overview of Shari’ah-compliant micro-financing services in Indonesia; Mursida Rambe, the Chair of the Yogyakarta Sharia Economics Society and the General Secretary of PBMT (BMT Association) Indonesia as well as head of Shari’a microfinance cooperative, who talked on the work of DD in Indonesia; and Kartiko Adi Wibowo, the director of PT.PBMT Rowasia, who shared DD’s Shari’a financing and its impact on DD’s social development for the poor in Indonesia.
Both the CARD-MRI and Dompet Dhuafa have been awardees of the RMAF on separate instances, for these organization’s humanitarian efforts in alleviating the poverty situation of millions of peoples in their areas of operation.
Carmencita Abella, the president of RMAF which is an award-giving body said that though RMAF is “not into business in Shari’a and Microfinance, it is in the business of honouring people’s greatness of spirit.”
CARD-MRI on the other hand, was interested to learn Islamic financing even if it has been already serving several regions not only in Mindanao but country-wide with its own brand of micro-finance. Dr. Jaime Aristotle Alip, founder and chairman of the CARD-MRI, said that CARD-MRI is looking into how they could extend financial assistance in Moro areas through Shari’ah financing. Though the organization has been assisting millions among its clients in micro-financing, Dr. Alip said it seeks to develop Shari’ah financing to serve the Moro people within its sphere.
The learning session also sought to establish basic groundwork and environment scanning to initially assess the context and situation of organizations that are into microfinance activities in predominantly Muslim communities in Mindanao.
The activity was also an effort to conduct a review of the readiness of other partner organizations of the Peace and Equity Foundation in shifting and adopting Islamic micro-financing activities and apply Shari’a financing in their operations.
Though it seems like there’s still a long way to go before Shari’ah Financing could make a dent into the lives and economic situations of a great number of poor communities in Mindanao especially in Moro areas, it is worth noting that many lives have been touched and improved because of it.
Based on Zakat, or almsgiving, which is “obligatory tax due on an adult Muslim’s wealth every year, dedicated to supporting the poor and needy,” Shari’ah Financing is more meaningful to the lives of Muslim populace not only because it responds to the practical needs of the poor, but that it also teaches values not found in other micro-finance products. Thus it makes charity an undeniable cornerstone of the Islamic faith.