Marcela, a handicraft business owner had to close down her business, for now

Most Pro Mujer women have been affected by the pandemic one way or another. Due to quarantine measures, they have had to close down their businesses, or deal with diminishing sales and the pressure to re-think their source of income. Pro Mujer is quickly adapting and finding solutions to help these women.

The Covid-19 pandemic that has paralyzed the entire planet, has and will continue to impact millions of people like Marcela Fabiana Castrillo. For 14 years, she has been the owner of Mixturandina, a handicraft manufacturer in Salta, a city located in the northwestern region of Argentina

She would often wake up early to start manufacturing handmade purses and home decorations. Then, she would go outside to sell her merchandise to tourists passing by fairs, parks and train stations. Life for Marcela has changed entirely. Today, her hands are empty, and she has lost her source of income.

“We have no sales. We can´t get supplies. We had to turn down our wholesale contracts. This is hitting us hard,” Marcela told Pro Mujer’s team.

In order to protect lives, the Argentinian government instituted strict guidelines and implemented a mandatory lockdown. Schools and universities suspended classes. Airports and borders are closed. Hundreds of thousands have already lost their jobs. Businesses have been paralyzed and small business owners are suffering.

Since becoming an entrepreneur, Marcela affirms, she has not lived something like this before. Merchants that work in the tourism sector were looking forward to spring break, the best time of the year for them. They had their hopes on this season’s sales especially because last year they were affected by the heavy rains.

“We are all in this together. We understand that our health is first. Without health, you can’t do anything. But it is really hard when you have to tell yourself that if you don’t go out to work, you won’t have food to put on the table. And if you go out, you could get really sick,” Marcela shared.

Marcela is a member of an association of handicraft manufacturers with more than 300 families. As president of this association, Marcela is organizing her community to acquire food and find ways to reinvent their sources of income. Many of them are using their skills to produce face mask to donate to hospitals

As member of Pro Mujer since 2008, she receives microloans that have allowed her to maintain and expand her business. She has also taken advantage of Pro Mujer’s health care including pediatric care for her children and gynecological control for her teen daughters.

Pro Mujer’s financial and health teams are building new strategies to help mitigate the negative impact on women. In cases like Marcela, Pro Mujer is delaying as many loan payments as possible and re-assessing their financial needs individually. Once mandatory lockdowns are over, our microentrepreneurs will need capital to reopen their businesses.

In the meantime, our health team has been trained to provide patients health-related information and counseling online to address questions about the virus or their overall health.

“[Pro Mujer] is responding and adapting really well. They are giving us a hand,” Marcela added.

“Our group is united. We are not giving up We are not losing hope. Things will get better. I hope this all goes fast.“