Voices from the Field – A Look Back at 15 Years of Pro Mujer in Nicaragua
In late December, Pro Mujer celebrated 15 successful years of service to the women of Nicaragua.
Founded on July 31st, 1996, Pro Mujer in Nicaragua (PMN) was the first country outside of Bolivia (where Pro Mujer was founded in 1990) that Lynne Patterson and Carmen Velasco entered in order to expand their mission to alleviate poverty and help women realize their potential as agents of change. Over the course of the last 15 years, PMN has continued to strengthen its operations, and has made enormous progress in providing financial, training, and health services to an increasing number of Nicaraguan women.
PMN has consistently ranked among the top 100 microfinance institutions in an annual report carried out by the Interamerican Development Bank (IADB) and the Microfinance Information Exchange (MIX). In 2006, the World Bank’s Poverty Alleviation Program presented it with an award for financial transparency. In 2007, MicroRate named PMN one of the “Best Microfinance Institutions with Social Programs.”
All of this was made possible in large part because of the inspired, unwavering and expert leadership of Gloria Ruiz. She began her career as a Credit Officer at Pro Mujer in Nicaragua in 1996, and moved through the ranks to eventually become Country Director in 2002. This breadth of experience has a real influence on her work as the leader of Pro Mujer in Nicaragua.
Over the course of the last 15 years, Gloria and her team have faced countless obstacles in their path to realize Lynne and Carmen’s dream to improve the lives of women. Since Gloria became country director, PMN’s portfolio has increased by US$7 million, and its client base has grown by 22,000.
Born into a poor family and raised in a male-dominated society, she witnessed domestic violence as a child and survived the atrocities of the Nicaraguan Revolution, which lasted more than 15 years.
When she was 12, her stepfather forced her to quit school, as he saw no value in investing the earnings from her mother’s business in her education. She even met resistance from her mother as she pursued her professional goals. Gloria remembers,
‘When I finished high school, I decided to study agricultural engineering. My mother said, ‘Agriculture is for men. You should study to be a secretary or a teacher.’ However, I didn’t want to be the secretary of an engineer or the teacher of an engineer’s children. I wanted to be the engineer.”
In spite of so many challenges and obstacles, Gloria remained firm in her vision for the future. Today, Gloria has a master’s degree in Microfinance, is a certified agronomist, and is a leader in her community. She also serves on the Board of Directors for ASOMIF, the Nicaraguan Association of Microfinance Institutions, and is studying English.
On December 15th, PMN celebrated Gloria’s 15th anniversary with the organization with an event attended by the entire team. An emotive dedication was also made to Gloria, Lynne and Carmen for their loyalty and commitment over the years.
“As heartwarming as it must have been for Gloria to be recognized by her team, it was even more meaningful for us to see how the organization has grown and how it is fulfilling its mission in Nicaragua,” commented Lynne.
It is truly amazing to see how far Pro Mujer has come in the last 15 years, and I am thrilled to be a part of an organization that does such important work for the women of Nicaragua.
Today, Pro Mujer in Nicaragua has 37,545 clients, 2,379 Communal Banks, and in 2011, disbursed US$29,119 in small loans.