By Wade Prospere, member of the Junior Committe
After joining the Junior Committee in March of 2012, several experiences have encouraged my commitment to Pro Mujer’s mission of providing poor women in Latin America with the means to build livelihoods for themselves and futures for their families. Interacting with Pro Mujer staff in both New York and Latin American offices suggested one thing: Pro Mujer’s microfinance, business training and health care support have affected poor women in a way you cannot adequately understand without witnessing the change firsthand.
In May 2012 the Junior Committee hosted a dinner with the country director for Nicaragua, Gloria Ruiz. Gloria’s inspiring ascent from a credit officer to country director is an impressive insight into Pro Mujer’s devotion to the theory that given access to the right opportunities, women can become powerful agents of change. Gloria shared client testimonials and demonstrated the positive impact that financial and health services can have on clients who are profoundly without resources. Following the dinner, the Junior Committee hosted events including a summer social fundraiser, a Citi women’s initiative, and participated in Pro Mujer’s Annual Giving Women Credit Benefit. All of these experiences have contributed to my continued enthusiasm for Pro Mujer’s core values.
The Junior Committee serves as my avenue to effect change. For me, participating with the Junior Committee has been a way to generate financial support and raise awareness of Pro Mujer. All 16 JC members share a common passion for poverty alleviation, and the understanding that investing in women has a return that spans generations. When women unlock their potential, families become healthier, better fed and more educated. This ripple effect is the cornerstone of Pro Mujer’s ability to transform communities to overcome poverty. Pro Mujer empowers women by delivering vital tools and services that focus on three key areas: financial services, business and empowerment training, and high-quality, low-cost primary health care.
In November, I visited Pro Mujer’s office in Salta, Argentina. I wanted to see Pro Mujer’s impact firsthand. Pro Mujer Argentina opened its doors in Salta in 2005 and has since expanded to two other provinces: Jujuy and Tucuman. In total, Pro Mujer serves over 10,110 clients through 669 communal banks with a portfolio balance of over US$4M. The country has four health clinics staffed with eight nurses. Prior to my visit I spoke with Pro Mujer’s Global Human Resources Manager, Denise Ferreyra, to schedule interviews with employees and clients. While in Salta, I spoke with Denise, Ana Lucía Mondada (Financial Services Coordinator), and Gabriela Salguero (General Manager), among others. Talking with Pro Mujer staff was inspiring. Employees, 10% of whom once received Pro Mujer services, are devoted to improving every facet of clients’ lives. Their familiarity with client situations and compassion for helping educate women was contagious. Pro Mujer is filled with deeply committed individuals who are both inspired and inspiring in their daily interactions with clients.
The most profound experience from my visit to Pro Mujer was participating in a client loan repayment meeting. In Salta, some women travel two hours to receive support from Pro Mujer—a sacrifice that reveals how vital financial and health services are for poor women and their families in Argentina. Alternative options do not exist. Every client I spoke with made it clear that Pro Mujer gave her an opportunity to develop a sense of self-worth. Confidence was by far the most salient characteristic I noticed within the team of 15 women. Each woman boasted about her business, and how she built her livelihood through Pro Mujer’s integrated package of financial, training and healthcare services. As one client told me, “Pro Mujer gave me an opportunity [to start my business]. I now have a community of people that support me. I feel valued because I can be independent.”
At the heart of Pro Mujer’s mission are women who represent a better opportunity for their entire family. More than just credit, Pro Mujer has shown me how a holistic package of services can have effects that cannot be measured by loan repayment statistics. A sense of self-worth is invaluable, and the ripple effect of confidence is tremendous. Pro Mujer and the Junior Committee have given me the opportunity to inspire action. Moving forward, the Junior Committee hopes to inspire many more young professionals to join Pro Mujer’s movement to improve the lives of women and their families living in poverty in Latin America.