A woman in a man’s world
Like many Latin American countries, the Dominican Republic has a strong, male-oriented culture. Although this culture is beginning to shift, for many women in the Dominican Republic, life is a daily battle between running a household and slaying the ‘macho dragon’.
Two women who have stepped out of traditional gender roles in the Dominican Republic are sisters Nancy and Fidelia Espinal, who in 2003 established a transportation company in their local city of Maimón. Recognizing the need for dependable transportation services they started Maimón Taxi with the support of their mother and two siblings.
To get their business up and running, Nancy and Fidelia took a loan to buy two new cars from Oikocredit partner, COOPMAIMÓN. COOPMAIMÓN is a cooperative with around 70,000 members, providing financial services (credit and savings), training and social programmes to its members, many of whom are female entrepreneurs.
Since their first loan from COOPMAIMÓN, the sisters have grown their business to a fleet of 17 vehicles, including one truck, five cars for executive services and two buses. The sister duo now hires 11 full-time male drivers, many of whom say they enjoy working for a woman as they receive good working conditions as well as healthcare benefits. In the Dominican Republic formal unemployment is high at 14%, with gross national income per capita of US$ 5,400, as opposed to $US 52,000 in the USA. Approximately 35% of Dominicans live in poverty.
Nancy explains that running a business is not always easy, but it was hers and her sister’s dream to start a company that would help people get to and from work, as well as to the airport safely and efficiently. “The transport business is not an easy one to be in, as it’s quite a male-dominated sector, however our drivers are very respectful to us and support us as female entrepreneurs,” said Nancy. “Gender has never been an issue in getting a loan to grow the business or managing our mostly male staff,” Nancy said. “Our dreams are now to not only grow the business even further, but also be an example for other women who aspire to succeeding in a male-dominated sector,” Nancy added.
Nancy and her sister are just one example of how a loan from a social cooperative can not only be empowering, but can pave the way for other aspiring female entrepreneurs.
Read more about COOPMAIMÓN.