On Thursday, June 23rd Pro Mujer inaugurated its newest neighborhood center in the city of Ocotlán in the Mexican state of Oaxaca. Joining us for the festivities were our Chief Executive Officer Rosario Pérez and other members from our headquarters in New York, the team from our national offices in Pachuca, Hidalgo as well as five new employees who will be working in the center, more than 80 clients and Mark Beam, Senior Advisor to our lead supporter Halloran Philanthropies.
Ocotlán’s opening has been a wonderful labor of love which began approximately 18 months ago. The process involved selecting a city to host the new center, purchasing equipment, hiring loan officers and a center manager and putting the final touches on the interior and exterior of the building.
The day started out with a repayment session organized by the communal bank association, Las Emprendedoras (Enterprising Women) followed by a workshop called, “The Dignity of Women.” Another communal bank association el 13 de diciembre (the 13th of December) held its repayment meeting and participated in a workshop which helped its members learn how to run a successful business.
In the afternoon, everyone gathered around for the ribbon-cutting ceremony with our Chief Executive Officer Rosario Pérez and our Country Director Rodolfo Medrano who performed the honors. It was a truly exciting event complete with food, balloons for the children and words of thanks and encouragement from staff, clients and supporters alike.
Throughout the day, clients toured the approximately 1,200 square foot facility (111 square meters) and were able to access Ocotlán’s new computer center – one of 10 such centers housed in our 42 neighborhood centers in Mexico. Thanks to the support of the Blue Star Foundation, Ocotlán’s computer center will provide clients and their children with the opportunity to learn how to use basic computer software such as Microsoft Office (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, etc.) and how to navigate the Internet. Those with more advanced experience will continue to learn how to use Microsoft Office applications as well as social media, how to leverage the Internet to promote their businesses and video editing, among others. Not only do our clients learn valuable new skills but they also help bridge the generational/technological gap with their children.
It seems like only yesterday that we opened our first center in the city of Tula, Hidalgo although in reality it has been 10 years since we began operations in Mexico. Located in the southern part of the country, Oaxaca brings the total number of regions where Pro Mujer operates to 9 including the states of Hidalgo, Mexico, Puebla, Tlaxcala, Querétaro, Veracruz, Guanajuato, Oaxaca and the Federal District which includes Mexico City.
As of May of this year, we provide 30,584 women micro-entrepreneurs with our multidimensional services i.e. microfinance, business and empowerment training, preventive health education and high-quality, low-cost primary health care, and we are the largest organization to provide these kinds of services in Mexico. Our 42 centers provide a safe and supportive environment where clients can receive these services delivered through 3,105 communal bank associations (peer groups of up to 30 women that self-organize and guarantee one another’s loans as a group).
Within the first year of operation and in keeping with our mission, we hope that Ocotlán will allow us to provide hundreds more women with the tools and access they need to realize their potential as agents of change. Entering into Oaxaca is of course part of a greater three-year strategy to consolidate operations in the central region of Mexico and further expand into the more southern regions of the country.
In addition to Halloran Philanthropies, the opening of our newest center was also made possible by two additional partners, the Vista Hermosa and Blue Star Foundations. We thank Halloran and the Vista Hermosa and Blue Star Foundations for their steadfast support.