Wednesday, September 17, 2008

From microentrepreneurs to village banking managers

Throughout the world, many village banks are successfully managed by women, and CRECER is no exception. At the moment, this village banking group has 15 members. They already are in their 46th loan cycle, with a total loan amount of 81,000 Bolivianos (9,321.49 Euro). Every 15 days the group meets and receives some education and training on banking and financial issues. The women speak Aymara and Spanish and call each other “sisters”. The village bank “Lago celeste A” is managed by: - Miriam Machaca is the president, she sells handicrafts - Teodora Condori is the vocal, she is a fisherwoman - Esperanza Chambil is the treasurer, she sews clothes and sells handicrafts - Magdalena Chambi is the secretary, she sells handicrafts, and is the youngest of the group - Gregoria Choque is responsible for education/training issues When we arrived, there was a clear barrier between “us” and “them”. Fortunately, Alberto managed to break it down through a play using Aymaran words. We laughed a lot, and from that moment, the bridge between our worlds was built. While they were making repayments, I sat in between them for a brief chat. Strikingly, any time I asked about their future plans, they respond unanimously “We want to continue growing with CRECER”. Gregoria supports Alberto during the trainings. Because she is not busy with repayments, we had a brief conversation. Gregoria is a fisherwoman and fish wholesaler in Tiquina town, on the shore of the Titicaca Lake. Since 15 years ago, she wakes up very early in the morning to sell fish in the local market. With her small boat, she is able to catch four to five large cans of fish – mainly ispi and carachi, which are common in the lake. Before joining the group, 11 years ago, her catch was not sufficient to provide for the family. Nowadays, Gregoria get more income thanks to the village bank “I use the loans to buy more nets, so I catch more fish and sell more. I have fixed customers”. Next to this, every six months she receives a small amount as profit that she uses for buying a quintal (46kgs) of rice or shoes for her children. She uses the additional income to pay for the school of her four children. CRECER support has been crucial in difficult moments. “CRECER also provides us a special loan when my children or I am sick, so I can continue working”. Gregoria’s husband works crossing cars and buses from one shore of the lake to the other. Due to the political and social situation in Bolivia, Gregoria’s husband only crosses two cars or buses a day. There is no bridge between the shores of Lake Titicaca because the population was against building one. At first sight, it is difficult to understand such a decision. Would it be a sign of respect to the lake because it is believed to be an important shrine of feminine energies on Earth in Aymaran cosmology? I wonder if I will ever find out…

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