The BBVA Microfinance Foundation is recognized for its commitment to women’s economic empowerment
There are more than two million people in five Latin American countries who work hard day in and day out to overcome barriers, live in dignity and make their dreams come true. More than two million entrepreneurs who are supported by the BBVA Microfinance Foundation (BBVAMF) so that their small businesses – their livelihoods – flourish. Of these two million people, most are women who are examples of how much can be done with so little. The Organization of American States (OAS) presented the BBVAMF an award for promoting the empowerment of women in Latin America – the region with the highest inequality in the world.
“Our experience shows that given the same conditions as men, their businesses perform better, they save proportionally more, and they spend better on nutrition, health and education for their children,” said the BBVAMF CEO, Javier M. Flores, in Washington, when receiving the “Corporate Citizen of the Americas 2018” award, presented by the Trust for the Americas and the OAS. “Women’s empowerment is about recovering the dignity of women as individuals,” he added.
More than 40% of the 1.2 million women supported by the BBVAMF received a primary education at the most; 45% are the heads of household and support their family members and 26% live in rural areas. Women start with loans and assets that are 30% lower than their male counterparts, yet their business grow faster in sales (18% vs. 14%), surpluses (21% vs. 14%) and in assets (26% vs. 23%). And the future looks bright: after two years with the foundation, 33% of women who started in poverty, manage to escape it.
When presenting the award, OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro said, “the Foundation’s cross-cutting strategy encourages women’s economic empowerment, listens to their concerns, their needs and obstacles they face.”
This is how Loreley Rodríguez, single mother, managed to break the mold and start from scratch to build a story of personal triumph. “In the beginning I sold my clothes and my daughter’s clothes out of necessity because I didn’t have a job and I had to keep the house. I used to sell things on the ground at fairs and that’s where I discovered my calling to be a merchant,” says the entrepreneur who found the support she needed to pursue her dream through Fondo Esperanza, the Chilean institution of BBVAMF.
That was the start of a story that is drastically different from her current situation. Over time, Loreley went from selling her clothes, to selling second hand clothes and from there to clothes from the U.S. Today, she has a “traveling boutique” – as she calls it – or the store she opened in her home, where her neighbors can buy top quality European clothing. “It has been a tough journey, but full of pride,” she says.
The more than one million women supported by the BBVA Microfinance Foundation share a common fundamental value with Loreley: nonconformity. Their life stories inspire the optimism needed for more women all over the world to challenge stereotypes and confront inequality. Their children – the future – are their greatest incentive to achieve this.
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