How women in Latin America are reinventing their businesses and supporting their community

Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, many businesses have collapsed. However, many entrepreneurs are adapting quickly. This is the story of Benigna Quisbert, a Pro Mujer beneficiary in Bolivia.

For 24 years, Benigna has been a member of Pro Mujer, where she has access to small loans, financial education, and health care services. During this time, she grew her business from selling children’s boots in the streets of El Alto to owning a clothing manufacturing company.

In these challenging times caused by the pandemic, Benigna Quisbert has found relief working with her sewing machine. On March 16, the Bolivian government implemented a mandatory lockdown pushing Benigna to shut down her clothing business and suspend trips she would often make to La Paz to sell her merchandise.

Worried about making ends meet, the 73-year-old entrepreneur transformed her clothing company into a manufacturer of face masks and medical gowns for a public hospital near her home.

“We are working very hard to deliver all the supplies the hospital needs. Sometimes we have to stay up until dawn so we don’t fail them. Look at how many people have lost their jobs and have no food. I am thankful that I have an income and a job even though if it means more hours of work,” Benigna shared with Pro Mujer.

Benigna has been producing at least 100 articles for the hospital every three days for the last month. With the help of her sons and grandchildren, she has been able to meet the demand that the hospital has had in the past weeks.

According to official data, there have already been 2,000 confirmed cases of people infected with the virus and 102 deaths in Bolivia. The country has been in mandatory lockdown causing hundreds of thousands of people to lose their jobs and increasing the rate of poverty in the country. This is especially concerning for women like Benigna, who have family members dependent on their income

Her resilience and creativity in the face of crisis inspires us to continue serving our beneficiaries and their communities in Latin America.

Following the Bolivian government guidelines, Pro Mujer has delayed all credit payments up until June. Our priority is the well-being of our beneficiaries who at this moment are facing difficult times.