Profiles in Courage: Elsa Soza, Expansion Specialist for Pro Mujer in Nicaragua
As told by Elsa Adriana Soza Rodriguez
NOTE – the following testimony was told to members of Pro Mujer’s Velasco & Patterson Society during its inaugural, in-country Encuentro or visit held on March 5th and 6th in Nicaragua.
“My name is Elsa Adriana Soza Rodriguez. I was born in Chinandega, Nicaragua, from a family with six children, meager resources, an alcoholic father and a mother who struggled alone — washing, ironing and cooking — to raise and educate her children.
Within the extended family, there were people who said that the Soza girls would never amount to much because of the simple fact of being daughters of an alcoholic. These words were deeply engraved in me. However, the efforts of my mother did bear fruit; most of their children are professionals.
I worked in SETAGRO, an agricultural services company for seven years whose staff were mostly male agronomists. I worked as an assistant, secretary and performed data entry. However, I had an endless list of problems with my partner such as jealousy, and physical and psychological abuse. My problems became unbearable and it resulted in me resigning from my job and I started working in the market selling agricultural products. However, it did not even cover the costs of food.
My situation was economically unstable and at home, we were experiencing domestic violence. My living conditions were unpleasant. The house did not have proper walls in the front; it was covered with old cans and plastic. We only had two rooms and no doors to give us the protection we needed aside from that which we relied on from God.
A former work colleague asked me if I wanted to join Pro Mujer that I should bring my documents. This inspired my curiosity about Pro Mujer. Later, I participated in two interviews for a data entry job. However, they offered me an opportunity to be a credit officer starting on February 15th of 2004.
Since I first knew of Pro Mujer, I identified with its mission and with so many women who need support to achieve development for them and for their families, which has helped me greatly in achieving significant changes in myself and my three beautiful children.
My experience at this organization has given me so much support to continue growing; the great human warmth, staff training and the opportunities for professional growth have helped me tremendously.
Currently, I have been separated for one year after so many attempts to improve the situation at home and I have managed to break the 11-year circle of violence that I lived in. Nevertheless, my conditions have improved in every way – what I had not achieved in 11 years with my partner, I did it in one year alone. I improved my living conditions by finishing the construction on my home and improving its façade. I managed to buy electrical appliances that were difficult to acquire in the past.
At work, I have developed technical skills that have enabled me to have other positions. From being a communal bank credit officer, I was promoted to Credit & Housing Analyst and then to Rotating Adviser and now, Expansion Specialist.
There is more peace and stability in my family now, without punches or violence of any kind and our living conditions have also improved. Today, I live with my children one of whom is studying accounting and the other attending primary school, and their nutrition habits have ameliorated.
What Pro Mujer has taught me is that women are valuable. Pro Mujer is not only a microfinance institution, but a women’s development organization where there are opportunities to grow not only for me, but for many women like me both staff and clients. This encourages me to give the best of myself everyday for my own growth, the growth of the organization and the growth of my clients. As a woman I am proud of what a woman can be capable of achieving once she embarks on a project.
What I like most about working at Pro Mujer is the human warmth and the confidence in knowing that the word of a woman is enough to continue moving forward. In my plans much remains to be done, I will be working to break the paradigm that I can study and become a professional; I will be studying business administration since my family deserves the best of the best.
I am sure that there is no other institution like Pro Mujer where we are given the opportunity of women’s development and I would not have done it without her.
I would first thank God for creating Pro Mujer. Pro Mujer is a school where you learn to be proud to be a woman and I am also grateful for having the chance to change my life as well as so many other women with similar stories.
At the same time, I thank all the people and institutions who help make possible the dreams of many Nicaraguan women.”