Borrowed from the old adage “by educating a woman you educate her family”, both these phrases are the fervent belief of President Lic. V. Vitty Arano De Rodriguez and Treasurer Lic. Susana Moreno Velasco, Director of the FUNBODEM Bolivian Foundation for the Development of Women.
FUNBODEM, a partner of Oikocredit and member of the Women’s World Banking, was founded 26 years ago in the city of Santa Cruz de la Sierra. Its pioneering mission was (and still is) to educate and fund “un-bankable”, financially excluded women. Specifically, guiding them on how to run and grow their sole-trader businesses (aka Capacity Building), and providing loans at appropriate intervals in order that they can achieve this.
Doňa Florisa, a dressmaker who designs for women, is a classic example of the trusted, long-term relationships nurtured by FUNBODEM’s credit officers.
Doňa Florisa arrived in Santa Cruz 22 years ago, a dressmaker but with limited prospects. She came across FUNBODEM quite by accident and immediately applied for her first loan of $100.
“Without loans, it is difficult for many women to move forward in Bolivia”, she says. “I saw the sign saying ‘development for women’ and thought that I fitted into that description”. She steadily built her dress-making business over the years, focussing initially on family and friends, until her reputation spread by word-of-mouth.
Now in her 22nd year, she proudly tells us that she has never defaulted on a loan, and is currently requesting her “19th credit” for the sum of $4000. This will be used to build a much-needed stockroom for storing all her material, as well as a small office to escape from her ever-expanding family and attend to her growing client base. And as if that isn’t enough, Doňa Florisa also keeps bees and sells organic honey.
Six years ago, when cook Arieta first approached FUNBODEM for her first loan of $200, she was living and cooking in a cramped outhouse with three children. Now she (and her parakeet, Chapita) leases a small café where she cooks for loyal labourers who increasingly book their lunch in order to avoid disappointment. She is now applying for her sixth credit of $1000 in order to extend her home and ensure that her children can have a better life.
What strikes me about both women is their determination to achieve complete financial independence through hard work, and their resilience in the face of adversity.
Their pride also shines through; not only derived from their personal sense of achievement and empowerment, but their track record for never having defaulted on loans, both of which they are keen to convey. In other words, this sort of financing and capacity building helps them to achieve both economic self-reliance AND credibility in the eyes of the outside world.
But some of the credit must also go to their FUNBODEM credit officers who spend time getting to know them, helping them to build their businesses steadily through capacity building, and offering bridging loans during periods of illness or difficulty. As such, these relationships are built on trust, and are genuinely and evidentially ‘in it for the long term’…
Keep following my trip here on the Oikocredit UK blog, or via www.twitter.com/OikocreditUK, and in the meantime enjoy this image of Chapita the parakeet.