The Woman’s Word (Palabra de Mujer) credit product represents a real opportunity for the vast majority of female Peruvian clients in vulnerable situations or in poverty.
The product is designed for women entrepreneurs who want to get a loan to start or expand their business, who join up with other women whom they know and whose sense of responsibility they trust. On the whole they work in the areas of trade, services, manufacturing or artisan crafts, or they want to start a business. Together they make up a “Trust Group”, which benefits them in other ways as well as credit, since it includes advice and financial education.
Erlinda Viriñao Panteco, Lizeth Jiménez La Torre, Ester Mitma Barboza, Augusta Flor Ramírez Jorge and Rina Violeta Romer are five of the thirteen women making up the “Las Villarricences” Woman's Word group, one of the most longstanding of those operating in the Villa Rica district (Oxapampa, Pasco).
Erlinda is a 35-year old single mother bringing up two children. She feels that her life has changed since she joined Financiera Confianza five years ago. The loans she has taken out through Woman's Word have enabled her to generate income from sowing caigua and hot rocoto pepper. With this income she has been able to educate her children better, with one of them already at university. This would have been impossible without Woman's Word. “My dream is to carry on working, using these loans, and to be able to buy a plot of land to have my own house and no longer have to rent. Now I feel much better, I can work and do lots of other things”, she says.
Lizeth has three children and is also a single mother. She came to the group because her female friends told her about it; she decided to join them in order to make a future for herself. Her first credit was for 500 soles; after that, as the trust built up between her colleagues, Financiera Confianza and herself, she was able to get bigger and even parallel loans. “I pay on time”, she is anxious to emphasize. Although her first investment, spent on sowing caigua, went badly, she decided to carry on and not give up. She found the strength for the sake of her children, carried on with the support of her colleagues, always keeping her word about paying on time. She remembers how their officer, Sara, has taught them all about responsibility.
“Without Financiera Confianza I would be on standby right now. I have two jobs: I cook for a school and I wait tables in a restaurant, and now I sow rocoto pepper, thanks to the loan. I don’t have a man by my side, but I have my children. My dream is not to have a house, it is for them to be professionals, and to carry on working; then when they are older they will help me”, she explains, showing deep emotion.
Esther is still bringing up three of her five children on the back of her candy-selling enterprise, and the support of her husband. A few years ago, when they told her about the existence of a group loan, she was suspicious; she was frightened because her domestic economy had always been modest and she was worried she might not be able to pay the installments on time. She discussed it with her husband, and decided to put her trust in the opportunity Financiera Confianza was offering.
Five years later, her efforts have enabled her to buy a plot of land to build a house. “I feel better than before, and now I feel that I have a place for my children to study and they are happier. We are no longer in debt to the school, and they study more. I feel that we have improved ourselves", she remarks.
Augusta Flor is 49. She lives with her four children who are still dependent on her. Until she started in Woman's Word, she was a housewife. Her daughter was in a Financiera Confianza group and encouraged her to follow in her footsteps, because it would provide her with resources to work, not to mention the advice and training that Woman's Word provides. “I was scared, but then I plucked up the courage to borrow 200 soles in order to work. I worked on roadbuilding, using a shovel … Now I feel that I have made progress. I will be leaving my wooden house soon to go and live in one made of more solid materials. I am getting ahead with these loans, now I work for myself and I feel more confident, I feel happy”, she shares with us, as she tells us about the positive turn her life has taken in the last three years.
Rina Violeta is 28 and is one of the people who made the “Las Villarricences” group happen. Together with Financiera Confianza’s officer, Sara Ricra, Rina started gathering together some of the women in her neighborhood, convincing them of the advantages of the credit. Although she is helped by her husband in bringing up their small daughter, she feels that Woman's Word manages to transmit the message that women can prosper on their own. “At the beginning it is always difficult, there is a lack of trust … That is why we were advised by the analyst, and we realized that they were not asking for much collateral, that it depended more on us. In these five years my standard of living has improved quite a bit. I started out with a small credit, I used it to sow rocoto and coffee, and now my husband has also been able to sign up for an individual credit”, she says proudly. Rina dreams of buying a plot of land and building a house, so that she can stop living in the rented room in which she and her family are now. She thinks about her daughter and wants only good things to happen to her, for her perhaps to study for a profession and hopes that when she is grown up she will be proud of her parents.
When these five entrepreneurial women get together, it feels like a meeting of sisters or childhood friends. The jokes keep on coming, their mutual trust is palpable. Their stories share the common thread of the effort and the progress they have made, little by little, and which has started to change their lives and that of their families. It is a growth process that is apparent to all of them. They are also linked by their special affection for the Financiera Confianza officer, Sara Ricra, whom they see as the person responsible for the change in their lives. “She is more of a friend than an advisor”, they all say.