Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Meat, Cheese and Bicycle Repair: Micro-credit and women’s development in Chalatenango

Member of sewing cooperative sewing a pair of pants.

I hadn’t seen a treadle sewing machine in a long time. If they are seen at all in the states it is most often in museums or antique stores. So it was strange to see them here, down a long dusty road in El Salvador. It makes sense though, they are powered by rocking a foot petal back and forth and the sewers don’t have to stop work when the power goes out, which it does… frequently. The women doing the rocking are part of a women’s group in Los Ranchos that makes and sells artisan crafts.

In the 1980’s, as newly repatriated war refugees, the women of Los Ranchos came together and began sewing undergarments. They organized trainings to support each other and learn new skills. They received help from international groups and regional organizations such as the CCR. They learned to embroider and began selling artesian goods to visiting delegations. They built upon their new knowledge and learned that their success came from themselves, from their collective work and their collective will. They learned and they grew. What started as a small sewing group is now a cooperative of 18 members. This group inspired other women in the same community to begin other projects where there was demand. They are now a sizable force within the larger organized community; participating more and more in community decision-making.

Recently, through the CCR and with funding from Salvaide, a Canadian NGO, the women have taken advantage of micro-credit programs to expand existing projects and initiate new ones. Micro-credit programs grant small loans to individuals who have too few assets or collateral to qualify for traditional loans, for example, one woman received a loan of five dollars to purchase corn flour for a tortilla stand. In Los Ranchos, three women in the community used a small loan to start expand their small store into a pupuseria. The words painted on the wall of a donated building holding the venture advertises “Milk, Meat and Bicycle Repair” proving that there are no boundaries to ingenuity.

As the women of Los Ranchos continue with their projects, and begin new ones, they will do so with the backing of community organization and solidarity. They receive and will continue to receive trainings, encouragement and support from organizations like the CCR and The SHARE Foundation.

We invite you to join, SHARE in supporting the next generation of project development. In doing so, you will contribute to the understanding that true sustainable development is accomplished through holistic projects. Micro-credits help women, but micro-credits accompanied by community organization, cooperation and mentoring empower women.

Doña Teresa y Doña Seferina (above)used a micro-credit to open a pupuseria and sell bicycle repair parts.

1 comment:

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