Empowering women in Guatemala through microfinance

By Narayan Murarka, member of the Rotary Club Barrington Breakfast, USA; Francisco Viau and Oscar Diaz, Members of the Rotary Club of Guatemala Sur, Guatemala

Sacatepéquez is a department in Guatemala with sixteen municipalities, Sumpango being one of them. A recent study showed the indigenous population in this region is higher than others and there are more women that reside here than men. Its main source of income, besides tourism, is agriculture: coffee, sugar cane, wheat, corn, beans, and more. Sumpango is also known for producing handicrafts, woven fabrics and traditional clothing which is made and worn by the indigenous people. There is also significant poverty here, with very limited opportunities for employment and businesses.

Our Rotary clubs are working on various ways to alleviate local poverty, one of which is to provide financial services for disadvantaged people. Microfinance loans are powerful instruments for reducing poverty by enabling people to increase income and reduce their vulnerability to economic stress. Microfinance loans are also a powerful catalyst for empowering women.

The Rotary Club of Barrington Breakfast in the United States is partnering with the Rotary Club of Guatemala Sur in Guatemala on a microfinance program in Sumpango.

This program aims to complement the skills of indigenous women and give them an opportunity to generate income. The objective for the program is to finance weavers in Sumpango by groups of ten.  Three groups of ten women each have already been financed.  Each person received $3,000 GTQ ($400 USD) in the form of credit for materials and supplies to create weaves and fabrics, which is to be paid back in twelve installments of $250 GTQ plus interest each month.

Our Rotary clubs have entered in a Memorandum of Agreement (MOU) with the Sumpango Municipality government who will administer the program. Rotarians will provide training to Municipality staff and the participants of the program on the various aspects of microfinance, marketing and maintaining accounts.

The materials and supplies will be acquired by the Municipality and given to the weavers at cost. The participants will weave local designs and the Municipality will help them sell their products.

The project is currently underway; women have started making their individual products. The number of hours they spend on making these products varies from 2-3 to 5-6 hours a day, depending on each person. Typically, they sell their products at a price equivalent to wages they would earn for the same hours of work. Since local employment opportunities are very limited, they embrace this microfinance opportunity to generate income that would otherwise be very difficult to attain while providing needed products.

We hope to continue to empower these women in this region through the program.

Read more about economic and community development related initiatives.

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