Empower women. Eliminate poverty.

Tag : women

Celebrate mothers worldwide with us this Mother’s Day

We are partnering with Women’s Worldwide Web (W4)  this Mother’s Day to empower women in Guatemala. When you give on the W4 platform in tribute of a mother in your own life, you can send her an e-card letting her know how she has impacted your life. Every gift empowers the women we serve in Guatemala, and if we raise $20,000 in tributes, W4 will match that amount, doubling your gift’s impact! 

give a gift that gifts back for your mother on mother's day

 

You can find her…

…early in the morning, kneeling on rocks in a nearby river, washing laundry before her children’s eyes are even open for the day.

…in the heat of the afternoon sun, with her youngest child strapped to her back, working in an onion field, only taking breaks to make lunch and dinner for her family.

…late at night, by the light of a fire while the rest of her family is in bed, embroidering to make some extra income to send her children to school.

In Guatemala, mothers like Rosario, pictured above with one of her six children, are the first in their families to wake up and the last to go to bed. In these margins of the day, they are giving of themselves to invest in the futures of their families. In any culture, mothers are driven and selfless, but in the Western Highlands of Guatemala, where women are marginalized and poverty seems endemic, this selflessness and drive is the only way to create generational change.

This Mother’s Day, will you partner with us to empower mothers like Rosario in Guatemala? You’ll be able to send an e-card to a mother in your own life, thanking her for the ways she has impacted you…and you’ll simultaneously be honoring and empowering mothers in Guatemala.

GIVE IN HONOR OF A MOTHER

give a gift that gifts back for your mother on mother's day

A Reflection on International Women’s Day

By Jessica Kutz, Field Intern

International Women’s Day isn’t just about women; it’s about all those who benefit when women succeed.

March 8th is International Women’s Day – a day that honors the achievements of women around the world, but also a day to reflect on the work that still needs to be done to empower women and achieve global gender equality.

The last six weeks I have worked in Guatemala as a field intern for Friendship Bridge. Working directly with clients and hearing their stories has given me an opportunity to reflect on women in the world, and specifically here in Guatemala.

John Hendra, the UN Women Deputy Executive Director of Policy and Programme gave a speech titled “Feminization of Poverty in Rural Areas.” In this speech he describes rural poverty as disproportionately affecting women due to several key factors, including access to health and reproductive tools, and access to productive resources.

Due to limited health and reproductive tools, women not only face higher mortality rates during childbirth in rural areas, but they also bear the economic burden of raising more children than they can support. Friendship Bridge aims to provide tools for effective family planning as well a culturally sensitive training to its clients. In a recent interview conducted with Yolanda, one of our clients, she talked candidly about what this lack of family planning means for women in her community. “There is a woman who lives near to me who has six children. This woman suffers…she only buys corn and only drinks hot water with her tamale, she doesn’t have enough to eat. I tell her, “You need to stop having children so you can take better care of yourself fand the six children you have.'” 

Lacks of access to productive resources means women have less control of family finances. If a woman is withheld from contributing to the economic wellbeing of her family, exiting extreme poverty is very difficult. If more women have access to the resources that Friendship Bridge provides via microcredit and educational training, families as a whole would have a better chance at sustainable futures.

Many of Friendship Bridge’s clients work in the agriculture and artisan sectors. With access to loans they are able to produce more crops, livestock, and products and increase their earnings for their family. During the interviews I conduct, most women mention wanting to help their partner support their family or wanting to provide a better future for their children.

The majority of Friendship Bridge clients have little or no formal education. Yet in 100% of the interviews I have conducted, our clients have cited the education of their children as their main motivation for growing their businesses. If we can continue to minimize the barriers that our clients experience and empower them to succeed, we can help them prepare the next generation of women and men to create a more equal society.

Partner with Friendship Bridge and empower women TODAY

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.

 

Empowering women leads to more children in school

Women are changemakers. When women are empowered, the impact extends to their families, their communities, and even their entire regions and countries. Earlier this month we shared Ana’s story – how she was empowered through Friendship Bridge loans and education to create a better future. But not only is her own future more hopeful, but with her newfound confidence and resources, Ana is empowered and equipped to change her family’s future.

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Ana’s success means better outcomes for her two children, Abner (age 15), and Nicolle (6 months). “I want my kids to live well. I want them to succeed and I want to be a good example to them,” Ana says.

Ana’s son Abner (pictured at right) says his goal is to finish his education. He says he wants to follow the example his mother has set – of hard work and providing for her family. “I want her to feel proud of me, as I do of her,” Abner says.

Friendship Bridge’s Non-Formal Education program emphasizes family care topics like keeping children in school. These trainings, along with Ana’s increased business income, have motivated and allowed her to keep Abner in school. He is currently in 8th grade, which is remarkable considering only 60% of children in Guatemala finish the 6th grade. With his education, Abner will be equipped to realize his own dreams for his future. As far as making his mother proud – well, Ana practically radiates pride when she talks about her son.

Friendship Bridge recognizes that education is a critical component of breaking the cycle of poverty, especially for indigenous populations in rural areas. To empower our clients to keep their children in school, we offer a CrediEscolar loan to offset the costs associated with school enrollment – such as uniforms, school supplies, and other fees.

Last year, more than 1,000 students were supported with Friendship Bridge CrediEscolar loans. Clients who took out the loans say they would have had to sacrifice in other areas if they had not received the loan. Remarkably, 26% of the clients who invested in education through a CrediEscolar loan had no education themselves, but through this loan are making a commitment to their children’s growth and education. From 2013 – 2014, school enrollment of our clients’ dependent children between ages 7 and 13 increased 17%. You can read more about the impact of CrediEscolar in our 2014 Impact Report.

We invest in women because they reinvest 90% of their income back into their family – prioritizing things like health and education. Investing in women and providing them loan options that fit their individual objectives means children like Abner stay in school and entire families and communities enjoy better futures. Investing in women means investing in generational change.

 

Support children like Abner in November and double your impact! A longtime supporter of Friendship Bridge believes so strongly in the power of our work that he has offered a challenge gift of $30,000 if Friendship Bridge can raise more than $30,000 in new or increased gifts through November 30th. Can you help us unlock this challenge gift by giving today?

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.

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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.

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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.

International Day of Families

International Day of Families

This Friday, May 15, is the International Day of Families. This year’s theme is gender equality and children’s rights. Globally, discrimination against women is often built into legal frameworks and government policies. Sometimes this can manifest itself in familial violence, whether physical or psychological. In other cases it means denial of access to education – for both women and their children. It could also mean malnutrition, little or no access to healthcare, and a host of other harsh realities.

We can’t deny these sobering facts, but we continue to be committed to changing them.

Our loan products…are promoting gender equality by giving women access to financial services. These loans help women build their businesses, keep their children in school, and invest in health.

Our nonformal education program…is giving women more confidence to build their businesses, know their rights, and care for their families.

Our Health for Life program…is bringing preventative healthcare and health education to rural, indigenous women who are traditionally underserved by Guatemala’s healthcare system.

As we reflect on this year’s of International Day of Families, we’re standing with families in Guatemala and around the world. We’re standing for gender equality, empowerment, and the elimination of poverty. Will you stand with us to help make these things a reality?

Giving Provides Opportunities for Grateful Clients

Petrona tablecloth

Petrona is an artisan weaver with five children – she shows a tablecloth she will set at market.

Giving is empowering and so is gratitude. In the case of Friendship Bridge clients, gratitude is the experience of being thankful for the opportunities that develop and resources that help them achieve their dreams.

On December 2, following Thanksgiving, Black Friday and Cyber Monday, #GivingTuesday will celebrate generosity on a global scale and encourage giving to benefit others. For assisting our clients in Guatemala, your act of giving could be as simple as contributing on the Donate section of the Friendship Bridge website or donate on the Friendship Bridge crowdfunding site, http://empowerwomen.causevox.com/. You could also set a 24-hour goal for December 2 and create a personal fundraising page (it’s easy – go to Sign Up in the right corner of the page, write why you want people to give, and invite your friends and family to donate)!

Giving Tuesday BannerWhen you give, you are helping clients like Petrona Churunel Noj, a 32-year-old mother of five boys who produces handmade fabrics to sell at market. Her weaving artistry with a backstrap loom creates shawls, tablecloths and blouses as well as other finished products. She lives in Chuacruz in the western highlands of Guatemala.

Petrona was unable to attend formal school, but with her Friendship Bridge loan and involvement in the Trust Bank Girasoles Chuacruz (“Sunflowers of Chuacruz”), she receives non-formal education to improve her business and reach her goals. Now she has a variety of materials to weave and is meeting the demand of her local and national clients.

The quality of her life has improved, and she is passing achievement along to her children by using a “Rapidito Escolar,” or school loan, to support her children’s education. The loan helps Petrona with school fees for three children already attending classes. Petrona can buy new shoes for her kids to walk to school and uniforms. She truly values this product because it provides both necessary and extra items that help her children develop fully and reach for better opportunities. Petrona and her husband, a laborer, plan to provide education to all five children.

Petrona is excited for the year-end holidays as she expects to sell more during this time. This will allow her to make money to prepare for the new school year starting in January, 2015.

Your generosity and support will help Petrona and thousands of other entrepreneurial women in Guatemala care for themselves, their families and communities. Please consider giving on December 2, or before year-end.

 

Petrona weaving

A colorful tapestry woven by Petrona, who has local and national clients in Guatemala.

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.

Technical Training Creates New Love for Floral Arranging

Guatemalan women in technical trainingFriendship Bridge is continuing to make huge strides with our advanced education and technical training initiative.  To date, over 700 women have participated in a technical training to help take their business to the next level.   Through a variety of strategic partnerships with key organizations in Guatemala, we have sponsored courses on topics ranging from pastry making and canning to improved agriculture techniques and flower arranging.

Recently, a handful of our clients completed a training dedicated specifically to the art of flower arranging.  This skill is versatile as it can give clients a variety of opportunities including:

1) Store owners can create a new stream of income

2) Allows women to start a second small business

3) Presents an opportunity for women who really enjoy the art, to move from their current career into a new one

In addition to enhancing their businesses, the women in these technical trainings report that they love to get out of the house, form new relationships and the new skill boosts their confidence levels.

Meet the Tzolojya Trust Bank

Members of the Tzolojya Trust Bank GuatemalaLocation:  Sololá, Guatemala
Members: 9
Average age of Members: 44
Average number of Children: 4.5
Average loan size: $655
Average years of education: 1.6 years

Friendship Bridge began working in the Sololá area in 1998. The area is located in the Western Highlands of Guatemala, at a distance of 140 kilometers from Guatemala City.  Sololá is one of the larger, more prominent communities near Lake Atitlan.

The Tzolojya Trust Bank, which means Sololá in the Mayan Kakchiquel language, was established about 10 years ago.  The group is comprised of nine members with an average age of 44 years old and an average formal education of 1.6 years (only two members have attended school).  Additionally, its members have an average of four children per member.

The women of the Tzolojya Trust Bank have varied businesses including: bakeries, flowers, vegetables, tortillas, snacks and concessions, owners of stores of daily consumption (convenience stores), avocados, and handicrafts. The average loan of $655 goes directly into these businesses.

In addition to financial support, the women of the Tzolojya Trust Bank also benefit from training (provided in their own language) once per month by Friendship Bridge staff.  They learn about topics such as: business and money management, over-indebtedness, how to market their products, and family and women’s health.

The women say they enjoy the group dynamics and the monthly meetings.  They participate actively in the discussions, and always offer support to each other. Last month’s lesson was about the proper uses of the loan, emphasizing strategies to avoid over-indebtedness.  The lessons are interactive and encourage discussion, giving the members an opportunity to express their thoughts on the topics.  Friendship Bridge incorporates the principles of Adult Learning Theory into its methodology, recognizing the importance of participation and drawing upon the women’s own life experiences in the learning process.

Stay tuned! We will highlight Maria Santos Samines Buch and Marta Julia Yaxon Morales, members of the Tzolojya Trust Bank, next week!

This Trust Bank is supported by a Friendship Bridge donor who prefers to remain anonymous.  Thank you for your generous support!