Empower women. Eliminate poverty.

Tag : empowerment

Non-Formal Education: Savings, Loan Responsibilities, and a 6-month Review (Spring 2016)

A special thanks to our Cada Mes Club – Friendship Bridge’s monthly donors – for supporting our clients on their monthly journeys. 

Each month the members of every Trust Bank travel, most likely by foot, to their designated meeting places to make payments on their loans and receive a Non-Formal Education lesson in their native languages on one of the four pillars – women, family, business, and health.

April – Getting into a savings habit

We all know that putting a little away for a rainy day is a good idea. In reality, creating a savings habit is hard work. Accordingly, the women start off April’s lesson by listing all the reasons we don’t save. These are the hurdles they will need to overcome if they are going to start saving. Next their Facilitator provides them with a four step plan: 1) Name a specific goal (home, education, health). 2) Estimate how much that goal will cost. 3) Set a date at which the goal is to be achieved. And 4) Calculate how much you will need to save weekly or monthly in order to meet the goal amount. Each woman goes home that day with a liter soda bottle “bank” that has her personal answers to the four steps written on a label on the side of the bottle.

May – Accepting a loan and what that means

In May, the women reviewed the process they underwent to form their Trust Bank: from a single woman’s initial idea, to the sharing of that idea to recruit other women, to the meeting they had with a Facilitator for the first time. The question today is, “Why did you go through so much effort to acquire that first loan?” To answer that question, the women are given four images that represent the stages of plant cultivation and are asked to put them in order: sow, water, sprout, sunshine. Next the women explore the various ways that their loan is like a seed used to grow the fruits of their businesses. The women learn that accepting a loan to finance a cash short-fall does not generate an ability to repay the loan. Using a loan as an investment in a business, however, can.

June – Reviewing the past six months’ lessons

The Facilitator starts the June lesson asking the women to raise their right hands. Lo and behold, they all do. Their actions are the definition of a habit. Changing a habit requires motivation and determination. If the women are going to advance their businesses, discarding old habits is going to be necessary. Accordingly, the women reflect as a group on the goals they have set for themselves since joining their Trust Bank and what might be getting in their way of achieving those goals – it is most likely old habits. The Facilitator asks questions such as: What do you do if someone offers you additional credit? How about when your expenses are greater than your sales? Have you created a budget yet? Or put any money away for an emergency? The women go around the room answering these questions, offering each other advice regarding behavior change.

 

Here are a few client reactions:


  • “The topic about savings is really important. The examples we used today can help us find different ways to implement it with our family. Starting today I want to create a savings plan for one month so I can buy a set of pots that I need to cook fruit that I use in my business.” 
    - Keila, age 26



  • “It is important that every woman has a reserve fund through savings, because our children come first to us for school supplies. Friendship Bridge also makes us realize the value of our own health and to invest in ourselves, so our savings can help us get medical checkups.”

    - Maria, age 47, pictured in middle in red

 

 

Our Non-Formal Education program is the backbone of our Microcredit Plus program, and one of the Plus services that we feel truly empowers our clients. Thanks again to our Cada Mes Club for helping support this program!

 

Zika Virus, a Reminder for Women’s Empowerment

by Jessica Kutz, Friendship Bridge field intern

As the magnitude of the Zika virus increases, we are left with a question: What do we do now? In the case of women in the United States that means visiting your local gynecologist, deciding on a contraception option, and being thankful you don’t live in Central America.Grupos de Chupol 053 (2)-4

Why thankful? Because many women in Central America face numerous obstacles to controlling their reproductive health. The two main barriers are a culture of discrimination toward women and lack of access to adequate healthcare and contraception. This means that battling Zika and taking the correct precautions isn’t necessarily an option for most women in Central America

With a strong patriarchal culture in countries like Guatemala, women have few choices in regard to their reproductive health. Husbands often feel that they should be in control of their family size, and therefore they restrict whether a woman is able to use contraception. There is also a widespread sentiment that women are being unfaithful if they feel the need to use contraception, and this can anger husbands. Unfortunately, anger usually translates into domestic violence. In fact, gender-related violence is at an all-time high in Guatemala, which ranks third in the world for femicide – defined as “the murder of a person based on the fact that she is female. ”

In addition to this inherent discrimination against women, healthcare access is also a major challenge that disproportionately affects women, particularly those in rural communities. Staff in health clinics do not generally speak the local Mayan languages, making health education and access to resources particularly difficult for Mayan women who speak one of Guatemala’s 24 indigenous languages. As a result of this lack of education and access to women’s healthcare, Guatemala also has the lowest contraception usage rate in all of Central America. Guatemala was one of five countries that actually ran out of contraception in 2015.

This is why Friendship Bridge believes so strongly in working solely with women, especially indigenous women in rural communities. Friendship Bridge aims to empower women through microcredit, education, and health services. In particular, our Salud para la Vida program for women’s preventive health is overcoming obstacles like those mentioned above through health education and access to culturally sensitive preventive health services for our clients. Salud para la Vida provides women with family planning options, which allows them to take control of their reproductive rights. We are ensuring our clients are empowered to remain in control of their health when health crises like Zika hit.

 

Our Dreamer Clients: Cruz

Dreamer: The earliest stage of development on our Client Continuum. Dreamers are often new to the Friendship Bridge program. Most of them are just beginning to experience increased confidence and family decision-making. Their priorities are usually beginning to shift from basic survival to education for their children and healthier standards of living. Not surprisingly, one of the first things they do with their earnings is provide better nutrition for their families and put their children in school.

 

IMG_5534Born into a poor family of 11 children, Cruz did not have many aspirations for her life. Her father struggled with alcoholism and did not support the family, so rather than attend school, Cruz had to work every day in the fields to ensure her family had enough food to eat.

Cruz’s life followed the typical pattern of a Guatemalan woman, and she married young, at age 18. She had seven children, but two died very young. Because she had not attended school, Cruz learned to weave in order to support her family, like her mother had done. “I had to accept learning my mom’s job, and now it has become my business. I am grateful for my mother’s teachings. She fought very hard for me and my sister to become good weavers.”

However, in order to give her daughters a chance for a better future, Cruz needed more capital to grow her business. She heard about Friendship Bridge from two women in her community who were Friendship Bridge clients, and she applied for a loan and joined a Trust Bank. In addition to her loan, Cruz says the monthly Non-Formal Education sessions have been very valuable, and she has especially benefited from trainings on health, hygiene, family planning, self-esteem, and wise investing.

With her Friendship Bridge loans, Cruz has been able to grow her small weaving business and send her five daughters to school. She is proud of giving them a chance at a better future, and Cruz says her experience with Friendship Bridge has brought her much satisfaction and joy. “Thanks to my small business and my loans, I am improving my quality of life,” she says. Cruz is also proud that she and her husband have been able to build a larger home to create more space for their family and her business.

“Friendship Bridge has been instrumental in my journey to create a business and generate income. My entire family has benefited from my loans,” says Cruz. The loans and the education Friendship Bridge offers have increased Cruz’s confidence as a woman and given her more hope for her future, key characteristics of our Dreamer clients.

Tomassa and Sanidad Divina

 

photos and story collected by Robert Weigel, Kiva Field Intern

The first thing you notice about Tomassa is the warmth and the pride that practically radiate from her when she speaks. As we waited for her Trust Bank meeting to begin, she welcomed us into her home as if we were long-lost friends.

Grupos de Chupol 123 (2)

She shared a little bit of her story as we waited for the rest of her Trust Bank to arrive. Tomassa speaks little Spanish, so a translator bridged the conversation from her native language of K’iche. Tomassa is the oldest of five children, and at age 38 she herself has mothered ten children.

One by one the members of her Trust Bank, Sanidad Divina (Divine Healing), arrived at the meeting place. It was obvious the women were excited to be together at their monthly meeting. Tomassa and the rest of the Trust Bank listened intently as the Facilitator led an education session about proper family planning.

Grupos de Chupol 080 (2)-2

Grupos de Chupol 053 (2)-4

As the Non-Formal Education session ended, Tomassa remarked that this topic was one of her favorites that she has learned about so far. “I cherish these meetings greatly,” she said, “because as a child I never experienced any type of formal education.” As the oldest child in her family, Tomassa said she had to mature quickly and take responsibility for household chores as her father tended to the fields and her mother took care of her siblings.

Life as a Guatemalan woman was difficult, she said, but it got better when she met her future husband, a hard-working boy from her village. Tomassa said she and her husband have supported and loved each through many difficult times. She smiled and said he is the love of her life.

Tomassa’s smile widened when she recounted to us how a financial and supportive push from Friendship Bridge gave her the chance to begin her animal husbandry business. She currently owns twelve animals – two pigs, four turkeys, and six chickens. It was clear she took great pride in her work.

With her face constantly beaming with joy and her voice full of pride when she talked about her business and what she has learned through Friendship Bridge’s educational sessions, we couldn’t help but get excited, too. Here was an empowered woman who was creating a better future for herself and her family, a future she could be proud of.

Education Teaches Clients Concepts for Success

Education Teaches Clients Concepts for Success

Trust Bank education

Two clients review a handout during non-formal education in a trust bank meeting.

Non-formal education (NFE) is a lifeline for more than 22,000 Friendship Bridge clients. In addition to the monetary resources Friendship Bridge clients receive for their businesses, topics like “empowerment,” “avoiding over-indebtedness” and “children having children” speak to the realistic environment of women in rural Guatemala. While the training for clients is considered “non-formal,” the curriculum for how to facilitate learning on key topics is quite strategic and specific.Country Director Astrid Yerlin Cordona Morán de Paiz said the program teaches the women about what it means to be respected, financially wise and healthy, as a woman, as a wife, a mother and a business owner.

Topics are developed two years in advance to provide strategic direction but the timing of delivery is flexible according to client surveys. Timely topics that are immediately applicable to clients, such as the real dangers of child migration to the U.S., are pushed to clients as quickly as possible. Reports indicate that 80 percent of clients attend sessions of 45 minutes to an hour during their monthly Trust Bank meetings. Trust Banks are solidarity groups of seven to 30 women who co-guarantee the loans of their fellow members.

A flip chart with pictures and an accompanying training guide for the facilitator are the main tools used to lead the conversation. The Learning Network, a group of facilitators who represent one of each of the six Friendship Bridge branches, meets monthly to rehearse topics a month prior to deployment in the field. This group then replicates the activity within their respective branches so that all facilitators are trained on how to deploy the next month’s topic and can anticipate client concerns and dynamics. After the topic has been introduced in the field, The Learning Network relays client and facilitator feedback to the Education Manager for future revisions.

To continually improve the quality of the education sessions, all Friendship Bridge facilitators will take a 60-hour module developed by Freedom From Hunger, a long-time partner. The course will end with a certificate of completion for each unit, which covers information related to health, nutrition, business and managing money.

From the Field:  A KIVA blog

From the Field: A KIVA blog

By Amanda Schweikert, KIVA intern

A loan officer asks a question during a Trust Bank meeting

A loan officer asks a question during a client meeting.

After two and a half hours of travel on three different chicken buses, I make it to Santa Cruz del Quiché, a bustling town in southern Guatemala. In a quieter neighborhood, seven businesswomen partnered to create a Friendship Bridge Trust Bank called “Laguna Las Garzas” or lagoon of the heron. They are all Maya Kiché and show off their cultural pride with beautiful traditional costume in bright colors and patterns.

All of the women are extraordinarily welcoming. The members are curious about me—asking where I am from and how is my life in Guatemala, all while wearing giant smiles on their faces. Because these ladies average two years of formal schooling, the education they receive along with the loans as part of the “Microcredit Plus” program is highly valued. Though I can’t understand the majority of their talk in the traditional Mayan language Kiché, it is obvious that they are very invested in improving their futures and that of their families.

Lucia in particular stands out. The president of the Trust Bank, Lucia is a clear leader in her community, offering help to those around her and conversing with new friends as she walks to the Friendship Bridge office. She is married and has one child, a 15-year-old. After attending school for three years thanks to family contributions, Lucia was forced to discontinue her education and began to work. Therefore, she is very pleased that her son is currently in school and will have more opportunities than she received.

Lucia runs a restaurant, which she has owned for 13 years, and serves the residents of Quiché as well as several customers from outside of the town. She employs a young woman to assist her in the restaurant. This very motivated woman would like to broaden her clientele, publicizing her restaurant to attract people from other towns in the region. She has learned to dream for more on the foundation of skills, education and loans from Friendship Bridge.

Amanda Schweikert is a field blogger providing KIVA reports for Friendship Bridge. She also teaches part-time at the Lake Atitlan Multicultural Academy.