Women Leaders And The Chain Reaction

By Rosario Perez, President & Chief Executive Officer

Think about a time when you were presented with an opportunity that seemed both exciting and incredibly terrifying. This could be something like starting a new career, moving away from family or even quitting a bad habit. You didn’t believe that you were up to the challenge, but someone recognized your potential. Their words and actions supported you. “You can do this,” they said. “It may not be easy at first, but I will stand by you because I know you can do this.” In the end, it may have been this vote of confidence that made all the difference.

Often, when a woman first steps into a Pro Mujer center to access financial, health and training services, she can be timid, soft-spoken and unlikely to make direct eye contact. Perhaps she has dreams, but she has never had the self-assurance to put her plans into action. However, her life might just be about to change.

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Pro Mujer is a successful women’s development organization because we offer so much more than access to financial products and health services; we give women a vote of confidence and the support system to take big risks with the potential for transformative payoffs. When a woman comes to us, she feels valued, understood and motivated. With Pro Mujer behind her, she has the confidence to start a small business and work to build a better life for herself and her family.

Take the case of Edelma Altimirano, a 37-year-old mother of two from León, Nicaragua. “Before joining Pro Mujer my life was completely different” she told me. “I was a sad woman; insecure, living in awful economic conditions, and above all mistreated and abused by my husband for nearly 14 years.”

Pro Mujer gave Edelma a small business loan backed only by her promise to repay them. She started a business selling clothes, and began taking on larger and larger loans as her business grew. One day, at a group meeting, her peers nominated her to be their new president and leader. This vote of confidence has transformed Edelma’s world; she has since left her abusive husband, built a better home for her family, and persevered through the detection of cervical cancer and a subsequent life-saving surgery.

Through Pro Mujer’s leadership training, strong women like Edelma become mentors for their daughters and leaders in their communities. These empowered women engage in a virtuous cycle that is transforming generations and the society around them.

Edelma Altamirano and her family in Leon, Nicaragua

The ripple effect is tremendous: according to the World Bank, women’s economic participation in Latin America reduced extreme poverty by 30% between 2000 and 2010. Pro Mujer offers financial, health and training services to more than 280,000 women across the region, and our mission is grounded in the unwavering belief in women’s potential for self-actualization.

You can give a vote of confidence to our women leaders in Puebla, Mexico. Pro Mujer is bringing together 180 women leaders, like Edelma, for a day of training in business management, marketing, leadership and mentoring. Visit our Catapult.org page and make a donation to our project “180 Women: 180 Small Businesses in Mexico” and Johnson & Johnson will match your contribution dollar for dollar.

At Pro Mujer, we witness transformations like Edelma’s on a daily basis. For women who have never been given the opportunity, one vote of confidence can be the spark that starts a chain reaction. Stories of heavy doors, assumed forever closed, are slowly opening.