Posts tagged ‘microfinance’
Pro Mujer Examines the Hurdles Faced by Indigenous Women in Bolivia in ReVista: Harvard Review of Latin America
Gonzalo Alaiza, Country Director of Pro Mujer in Bolivia, examines the many hurdles faced by indigenous women who make up a disproportionate share of the country’s poor and lack easy and affordable access to its health system.
“Development with a Woman’s Touch,” is an article that is part of a special Fall edition of ReVista: Harvard Review of Latin America focusing on Bolivia and published by the David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies at Harvard University.
Development with a Women’s Touch
Human Development: Microfinance, Health and Women’s Empowerment
Today, like every day, Adela Reyes, 56, gets up at five in the morning. She serves her family breakfast, prepares lunch, organizes the household, send the kids off to school, and takes care of her 11-month old motherless grandson, her daughter having died in childbirth at home in an isolated rural community. Adela leaves the house at 8:30, carrying the baby on her back as she makes her way to the small business she runs: selling school utensils in a local market. As she walks, she does mental arithmetic: today, she is due to pay back a third of the loan she owes for her business.
For many, Adela is just one more of the thousands of poor women who live in Bolivia. Although the country has made some progress in poverty reduction, it is still the poorest country in South America, and recently surpassed Brazil as the continent’s most unequal country.
To read the article in full, please click here.
On Monday, June 13th, Pro Mujer’s Director of Health and Human Development Dr. Gabriela Salvador, MD, MPH, served on the “Wealth and Health: Leveraging Microfinance for Better Health Outcomes” panel at the Global Health Council‘s (GHC) annual conference in Washington, D.C.
The event, which also included speakers from Freedom from Hunger and Healthcare International Nigeria, set the stage for an important dialogue about how microfinance can be leveraged to advance health outcomes for low-income families.
In a June 3rd Global Health blog post leading up to the GHC conference titled, “Microfinance Controversy? Not When it Comes to Health,” Thierry van Bastelaer highlights how organizations such as Pro Mujer are finding innovative ways to combine microfinance and health care in order to maximize impact. Van Bastelaer says, “microfinance is a largely untapped, massive opportunity to advance health outcomes for millions of poor families.”
At the Conference, Dr. Salvador used Pro Mujer’s health pilot in Nicaragua as a case study to demonstrate how we deliver high-quality, low-cost primary health services directly to clients and/or refer them to secondary care centers. To view her presentation, click the link to her presentation, “A Model to Deliver High Impact Health Services.”
UPDATE – On June 23rd, Bloomberg published an article titled, “Global Rise in Cancer Cost $300 Billion in 2010, Harvard Economist Says” highlighting the urgent need to address chronic illnesses and noncommunicable diseases in both developed and developing countries.
In the article, David E. Bloom, Professor of Economics and Demography at Harvard’s School of Public Health says, “Noncommunicable diseases will evolve into a staggering economic burden in the coming years…it’s a huge impediment to the mitigation of poverty.”
Bloom, who is a Co-Chair of Project ANTARES, which has been a Pro Mujer in Mexico partner for the past few years (click here to read a recent Harvard University School of Public Health article about this initiative) continues, “The global decline in productivity due to illness and deaths from noncommunicable diseases will reach $35 trillion by 2030, an amount seven times larger than the current level of global health spending. Noncommunicable diseases undermine physical and human capital, as losses of labor put a burden on developing countries.”
The results from our Nicaragua project, which are due out this fall, will further support the growing urgency to take action against this increasingly important issue.
“I left my home with the man that is now my husband when I was 14-years-old. I thought I was going to have a better life, but it didn’t turn out that way.
I dedicated myself to maintaining our home while my husband worked. According to him, the woman’s role is to take care of the children and to do everything in the house – wash, iron, and cook. He beat me frequently and there was nothing I could do to stop him.”
– Sandra Ordonez, Nicaragua
These stories are all too common. Sandra Sandra soon received her first loan from Pro Mujer. According to the UN Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM), over 70% of women suffer physical or sexual violence from men during their lifetime.
Create an action, or join and action, just take action! There are so many ways to say no to violence against women.
Sandra became a Pro Mujer client and microentreprenuer, processing and selling jícaro seeds. Since starting her own business and joining her communal bank at Pro Mujer, Sandra has found her voice and her power. Sandra learned about her rights and found a community to support her.
The domestic violence has ended. Sandra threatened her husband that she would tell the people at Pro Mujer if he continued beating her. She demanded to be an equal partner in the house.
Sandra says, “My life is better because my children are able to go to school to learn to read and write and they are no longer hungry all the time. I am able to do what I want with my money and I don’t have to depend on my husband.”
At the age of 15, Linda Flores became a mother. She began making tortillas by hand and selling them to earn money to care for her child. Linda worked seven days a week, waking up at 4 a.m. and laboring all day at the stove top to make 500 tortillas a day.
She and her husband had two more sons, but could not afford a bigger house. Linda, her husband, and three children slept in a single room that doubled as a living room and kitchen. The walls were made of tin and the floors of dirt.
Two years ago, Linda discovered Pro Mujer. She used her first loan of US$40 to buy corn flour. She attended workshops on business skills and learned to make smart entrepreneurial decisions. Today, she makes over 1,300 tortillas each day.
With her earnings and her savings, Linda expanded her house. She built concrete walls, added bedrooms and put in a brick floor. Her children Julio, 16, Enoc, 14, and Cristhiam,10, have enough to eat.
Linda believes she has grown as a person, as a woman and as a leader. She is president of her communal bank. Linda also helps train other women about early detection of cervical and uterine cancer. She has dedicated her life to her family and to making sure other women enjoy the opportunities she had.
On January 25th, Linda Flores will travel to The Hague to address the Radio Netherland Worldwide event on microfinance. The event takes a critical look at microfinance, and asks the question, “who profits?”
Linda is the only microentrepreneur attending the event. Watch a short clip of Linda’s video at her home in Leon and read the reporter’s commentary.
Princess Maxima of the Netherlands will do the opening speech and the key note speaker will be the Dutch Minister for Development Cooperation, Mr. Bert Koenders. The event will be streamed live in English and Spanish.
Growing concern of the effectiveness of microfinance seems to be popping up everywhere. A new empirical study by three economics professors claims microcredit alone is not the panacea for poverty that some hoped it would be.
“The fact that some people expected much more from it (and perhaps they are right, may be it will just take longer), is perhaps inevitable given how eager the world is to find that one magic bullet that would finally “solve” poverty. But to actually blame microcredit for not promoting the immunization of children is no different from blaming immunization campaigns for not generating new businesses.”
It is not too shocking that microcredit alone does not end poverty. Maybe we should blame microfinance organizations for not promoting immunizations or pap smears. Other studies have shown that a combination of health services, business training, and a mix of financial services–as Pro Mujer does–is the most effective way to fight poverty.
Poverty shortens life expectancy more than smoking and has lasting effects on children’s health. By providing those microcredit clients who live on $2 a day with affordable access to health care, we can start to address the crippling effects of poverty that are not financial. Pro Mujer offers health serv
A Pro Mujer doctor discusses some of the health challenges poor Nicaraguan women face. Lynne Patterson translates:
Born in Larreynaga, Malpaisillo, Teresa Centeno is a licensed nurse and health educator at Pro Mujer. With over five years working at Pro Mujer in Nicaragua, Teresa is no stranger to the excitement and challenges of being a health educator; Teresa shares her story in her own words.
Growing up, I always knew that Pro Mujer existed; I knew about the services it offered because I occasionally accompanied my mother, a client of Pro Mujer, to repayment meetings. I never imagined that one day I would work for the organization. Years later, a friend told me that Pro Mujer was looking for nurses to provide healthcare and training. I became excited by the opportunity and luckily got the job.
My first breakdown began with my debut as trainer. At one of my first Communal Bank meetings, a client made me feel bad; I felt ignored, neglected, and that my job had no real purpose. I felt like crying, and I told the head doctor at Pro Mujer Nicaragua, Dr. Martha Garcia, about it. I felt out of place. I did not think I could handle it, so I quit. All of this happened in my first 15 days on the job!
Thankfully, the staff at Pro Mujer was supportive. They knew from experience that this work is difficult. They gave me advice and encouragement. I learned to empathize with the women. Many women have various problems and have no one to share them with which, the staff explained, is often the cause of their reactions. This is what makes our job so important. We help women change their attitudes, feel empowered, take care of their health and start their own businesses, but the women struggle. This is the type of job that you have to want and love to do in order to do it well.
The attitude change that Pro Mujer promotes is not exclusive to our clients, our personnel undergoes a change as well. We learn from the women and each other, we bond. I like the idea of helping women improve their quality of life and knowing they can achieve things they once thought impossible to reach.
I have also grown close with many of the clients. We laugh together and cry together. They appreciate the services that we provide, and they appreciate how close the staff is to them. They trust me.
Now I say: my job is important, and I am going to contribute to a change that will make a difference in yesterday’s woman to that of today! I am a 24-hour leader—a leader at work, a leader of my actions, and a leader of my home—and I plan on continuing to work with this very noble cause.