The impact that microfinance can have on a woman’s family is significant. We regularly see women borrowers investing profits from their businesses in things that directly benefit their families and insure the well-being of their children. Financial growth is just one important aspect in development. We also recognise the importance of encouraging and creating positive social role models for youth, and especially for young girls.
When I talk to the women in our program, you can be sure that one of the first topics that will come up is their children. I have had the privilege of meeting many of the borrower’s kids, and of having a good run around the patio whilst hearing about their plans. I especially love it when the daughters come to the weekly meetings and business classes. I always wonder about their perspectives on this program that their mothers are involved in. How do they see and relate to their mothers? And what hopes do the mothers have for the futures of their daughters?
Alicia is a new member to the program in Teotitlán who is using her loans to invest in the materials she needs to weave rugs and make bags. When I first met Alicia’s daughters, they were coming home with her after buying a piñata for their cousin’s birthday, and during our conversations I was handed a series of sweets that were meant for its filling. I was very impressed when Margarita, 10, told me that her favourite subject in school is math. Her little sister, Veronica, 7, is of my own heart. “I love stories”, she says, and her mother confirms that she is always reading. Her best subject is Spanish.
Alicia’s dearest wish is for them both to have the opportunity to continue to study. Significantly, just 9% of the 270 women that we currently work with have a high school or higher-level of education and we have noticed that it is a wish among many of them to provide their daughters with the educational possibilities that they themselves did not have. “I want them to be able to move forward in their lives, study, and have work”, Alicia said. “They seem to like the work we do in the family (weaving), but if they want to do something else, then I will support them in whatever that may be”, she says.
Veronica was especially proud to show me one of her first weavings that she had started. It was actually woven onto the base of the kitchen chair that I had been sitting on! This was something she learnt from her mother she said, and was considered as natural as learning how to wash clothes or clean plates.
Just around the corner from Alicia, in Teotitlán, you will find Teresa, who uses her loans to invest into her own little business of sewing and selling curtains to shops in the town. On a recent visit I was introduced to her daughter Adriana, who is 7 years old. I could tell of course that Teresa loved her three sons, who circled me excitedly as we talked, but from the way she spoke of her “only daughter”, I could see that little Adriana was especially adored.
“She really gave us a scare a few years back”, said Teresa, as she pulled the little girl close. “When she was just 5 years old, she was so sick that the doctors had given up on her. It was a blood virus. I didn’t know what to do”. At this point I almost dropped my camera as I put my hand to my heart and sat down. “But she had so much faith,” she continued. “She prayed to God, and she told us, ‘I am going to get better.’ And she did.”
“Now that you have moved through such a difficult time, what is it that you want for your daughter’s future,” I asked her. “What she decides,” she answered without hesitation, “I will support her in anything”.
Adriana told me in a whisper, as her mother smiled on encouragingly, that what she would really like to be is a nun. Just as I was about to leave, very quietly, almost from underneath the arm of her mother, Adriana told me that the thing she liked most about her mother was that she is always there for her, ready to give her the things that she needs.
Perla, from Tacochahuaya, has opened a hairdressing salon with her loans. One thing you will notice about Perla is her wonderful laugh. The first time I heard it she was laughing with her little daughter Fernanda Estefania who is 14 months old. “She is a happy girl,” she told me, “and naughty. She is always moving about, and likes to dance”. At this moment in the conversation, little Fernanda proved the point beautifully by making a dash toward the front gate and the street beyond. “She is my first child. I’m doing it all for her,” said Perla, as she scooped up the little one. “I have a lot of hope for her”.
In the town of Díaz Ordaz, Annabel invests her En Via loans into her baking and pastry business. Her daughter, Gabreila, 10, can frequently be found leaning on her mother’s side at the weekly meetings. When I asked her about the most important things her mother has taught her, she rattled off familiar motherly advice: always share your things, play nice with your brothers and sisters, and keep your room tidy. And then, without prompting her, she shared that what liked best about her mother is that she is caring and affectionate.
After I learnt that English was her favourite subject, I stopped using Spanish. She said she also likes numbers, and that she would like to be an accountant or a secretary when she grows up. Though she does wants to learn how to bake cakes like her mother, I believe that aside from baking, Gabriela might soon be helping her mother to keep her accounts in order!
I do not know these girls well, but I do know that the example being shown by their mothers is very important for their futures. En Via aims to provide the women borrowers with the tools they need to create their own success stories. We are excited to learn and share in these stories, and to know that the positive effects of the program reach even further than financial development in the form of encouraging positive and inspiring female role models within families and whole communities.
This blog is especially dedicated to my own mother, Kerry, and to all the mothers and daughters in our network of friends who have supported the work En Vía does to empower women.