Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The Aymara world: the challenges of adapting microfinance practices to a bi-cultural environment

It is almost noon when we arrived at Tiquina. In a large room next to a church, the village bank group “Lago Celeste A” (Skyblue lake A) is about to start their session. They are monitored by the Batallas area branch of CRECER, which comprises a total of 185 village banks. With more than 15 years of existence, it is the oldest group from this area covering Tiquna and Copacabana, including the Isla del Sol (Island of the Sun). CRECER (in English: GROW) is a microfinance institution that believes that education in financial matters should go together with providing loans. This contributes to the success of their entrepreneurships. It also helps them develop fidelity with their clients. Such trainings involve using pictures as many of the women are illiterate. Also different participatory techniques are included. In addition, trainings are given in Aymara, a language spoken around the Lake Titicaca area in Bolivia and Peru. After briefly introducing us, Alberto Rodríguez – CRECER loan officer – started the training. This time it was on savings: why savings are important and what kind of savings exist (formal, semiformal and informal). They also received information about a health center they can visit for a general medical check. (Most of the women of village bank groups do not attend health centers for various reasons, from cultural to lack of resources.)

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