June 12, 2012
Almost 20 years ago, well maybe longer now, I was asked to help move incorporation papers through the process for Pro Mujer. I was happy to do this as it seemed like a worthwhile endeavor. Then I visited Bolivia to see the program myself and was hooked! My first visit to the Friday meetings for the communal banks made me fall in love with these women..... many of whom had walked many many miles to get to the center in El Alto. I learned on that first visit why people worship the sun.... you will do almost anything to find that little sliver of sun to stand in for a few minutes 'cause it's cold and windy most of the time. The women were greeted to the smell of someone baking hot rolls and making hot beverages..... for many of them it would be one of their two meals that day.... which they consumed with gusto and smiles. Then the banking activity began.... the women had formed and named their banks, each having I believe 5 or 6 women each. They sat around tables carefully counting out what they would be required to payback as a portion of their loans and what they were required to save. I was fascinated with their hands.....turned deep brown by the sun, rough and often gnarled....even the young women. I discovered later that many who looked in their 60s were in their 30s or 40s.... or younger. These women were not numerate nor literate, but really smart and eventually were using calculators and took leadership positions in the group. They supported one another in so many ways and not the least being they had to kick in any money owed by a member who was not there that day.... a good incentive to make it each week and this incredible community developed. Once in awhile a husband or partner would appear to pay the client's share if they couldn't be there. Then the training in empowerment began, how to be and stay healthy and how to get your children an education, etc. The trainers were wonderful and it was a joy to watch. At the end of the day there was music and a little dancing.... Pro Mujer is now in a total of 5 countries and the success of the women and their families is fully documented. Over the years it's been wonderful to learn from these women (and their children) how much Pro Mujer changed their lives. Supporting this organization is one of the activities that reminds me how much good and kindness and generosity there is in the world. Jeanniemack
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